For the first time since 2004, a Canadian holds a share of the first-round lead at the Canadian Open. Corey Conners was the man to rise to the occasion as the two-time PGA Tour winner signed for a 5-under 67 to sit alongside Aaron Rai, Justin Lower and Chesson Hadley atop the leaderboard at Oakdale Golf & Country Club.
Not since Pat Fletcher in 1954 has a Canadian won his national open, and Conners looks primed to bring the streak to an end. It will not come easy, however, with reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick lurking just one off the pace. The Englishman was terrific Thursday and looks keen on contending this week ahead of his title defense at Los Angeles Country Club.
Swedish superstar Ludvig Aberg made his professional debut with a stunning 3-under 69 to match the scores of Justin Rose, Lucas Glover, Mackenzie Hughes and Taylor Pendrith. Pre-tournament favorites Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Cameron Young all signed for rounds of par-or-better and are still within shouting distance with 54 holes to play.
T1. Corey Conners, Aaron Rai, Chesson Hadley, Justin Lower (-5)
It's an eclectic bunch leading this tournament, but the attention is drawn to Conners. Given his ties to Canada, his ability to win on the PGA Tour and the manner in which he strikes the golf ball, the 31-year-old is the early hopeful to break the near 70 year drought. He could do no wrong Thursday, carding five birdies and getting around a stingy Oakdale in a bogey-free fashion. A lot of great Canadian golfers like David Hearn and Mike Weir have come close to shipping this tournament, and now Conners will have his chance.
T5. Jonathan Byrd, Brice Garnett, Matt Fitzpatrick, Mark Hubbard, Ryan Gerard, Brendon Todd, S.H. Kim, Will Gordon (-4)
T13. Eric Cole, Justin Rose, Ludvig Aberg, Lucas Glover, Roger Sloan, Cody Gribble, Callum Tarren, Andrew Novak, Mackenzie Hughes, Richy Werenski, Taylor Pendrith, James Hahn, Ryan Moore (-3)
Last season, Fitzpatrick utilized a T10 effort in this tournament leading into his triumph at the U.S. Open. He comes off a top-10 finish at the Memorial and looks keen on following the same script from a year ago after a 4-under 68. The world No. 8 ranked inside the top 10 in both strokes-gained approach and strokes-gained putting — a dangerous prospect for the rest of the field.
"I feel like the golf course next week and last year are very different, so it's not kind of the same in a way because this setup was fairway, thick rough," said Fitzpatrick. "Brookline was fairway, thick rough. I think next week's obviously Bermuda. It's kind of a different game plan. You're not sure whether it's going to jump or you're not sure if you're going to get it out. It's very different. So obviously there's positive vibes coming into this week, going into next week, so I'm just looking to play well and take confidence going into next week."
What about Rory?
It was an opening 1-under 71 for McIlroy, but it could have been much worse. The two-time defending champion ranked third in strokes-gained putting and outside the top 120 in strokes-gained tee to green, strokes-gained approach and strokes-gained around the green. Thursday's play was reminiscent of that from the PGA Championship and the Memorial — not good for McIlroy's standards, but he remains firmly in the conversation.
"Course is good. It's penal. If you miss fairways the rough is very, very thick," said McIlroy. "I certainly hit a few loose shots and got myself out of position and the golf course does start to get quite tricky from there. So need to do a better job of just putting my ball in play off the tee. Then from there the golf course is still quite scorable."
Aberg's professional debut
A week after superstar Rose Zhang won in her professional debut on the LPGA, another young star looks to do the same. Aberg's debut has been highly anticipated after he became the first player to finish atop the PGA Tour U Rankings and earn immediate access onto the PGA Tour.
Winning numerous awards and tournaments in his collegiate and amateur career, the young Swede looked right at home despite shedding his amateur status. Aberg stands just two off the early pace after his first 18 and gave potential Ryder Cup teammates Tyrrell Hatton and Fitzpatrick a front-row seat into a glimpse of the future.
"He's impressive," said Fitzpatrick. "Drove the ball very, very well. And yeah, he's a good player. I'm very excited that he's a European."
2023 Canadian Open updated odds and picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Corey Conners: 6-1
- Matt Ftizpatrick: 13/2
- Rory McIlroy: 9-1
- Justin Rose: 12-1
- Aaron Rai: 18-1
- Tommy Fleetwood: 20-1
- Brendon Todd: 25-1
- Cameron Young: 25-1
Let's roll with the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Young came into this tournament off back-to-back missed cuts due to a faulty putter, and it showed Thursday. Young ranked fourth in strokes-gained tee to green and outside the top 140 in strokes-gained putting. Despite his shortcomings on the green, Young fired a 1-under 71 to sit four off the first-round lead. He goes off early Friday and will have a chance to put his stamp on this tournament.