• May 29, 2023

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The PGA Championship has a Canadian flavor

The second men’s golf major of the year tees off Thursday at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., just an hour and a half drive from the Ontario border. With a record six Canadians in the field, there’s an increased opportunity that one will hoist the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.

This is the second major since the flow of defectors to the Saudi-funded league stemmed and battle lines were clearly drawn. The only arena for players from the rival tours to square off is the four majors, each run by independent entities. The PGA Championship belongs to the PGA of America, a separate organization from the PGA Tour.

The rebels made a statement at the Masters, where Brooks Koepka and LIV Golf posterboy Phil Mickelson tied for second and Patrick Reed tied for fourth. Those results dispelled the myth that LIV’s decadent 54-hole events with no cuts and guaranteed fat paycheques would render its stars too soft to compete on the sport’s biggest stages.

There will be 18 LIV Golf players at the PGA Championship — the same number that teed it up at Augusta. Mickelson will try to recapture his magic from the 2021 event on Kiawah Island, where, less than a month shy of his 51st birthday, he became the oldest major champion in history and captured his sixth major title. Koepka was a runner-up that year, just missing his fifth major triumph after winning back-to-back PGA Championships and back-to-back U.S. Opens late last decade.

Other LIV players in the field this week include Reed, reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith and past major winners Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

It’s been 20 years since Mike Weir’s historic Masters victory, but Canada has a full cylinder to fire at Oak Hill.

The group of six includes three players who have won on tour this season in Corey Conners, Adam Svensson and Mackenzie Hughes. They’re joined by Taylor Pendrith, Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin.

Conners appears to have the best chance. The 31-year-old from Listowel, Ont., is ranked 29th in the world, comfortably the highest among Canadians. He’s also the top Canadian in the betting odds, with an implied victory probability of about 1 per cent. That’s a long shot, but Oak Hill is a not-especially-long course that mostly rewards accuracy — a good fit for Conners’ skill set.

Keep an eye on Taylor too. The 35-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., is the top Canadian in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings at No. 22. But he could be a bit rusty (and sleep-deprived) as he comes off a three-week break for the birth of his and his wife’s second child.

Steve Carr

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