Man of His Word Furyk Back to Defend

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2006 Canadian OpenMARKHAM, Ontario -- Jim Furyk kept his word.
 
Minutes after winning the Canadian Open last September at historic Hamilton Golf and Country Club, the American star said he would return to defend his title despite an untimely new spot on the PGA TOUR schedule.
 
'It was never a question,' Furyk said Wednesday after his pro-am round.
 
'The first question when I got in the media room was, 'Are you coming back next year?' And I was like, `Why wouldn't you if you're the defending champ?''
 
For most top players, the national championship -- in its second year without a title sponsor -- wasn't a viable option because of its position after the British Open and before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship.
 
Furyk, coming off a 12th-place tie Sunday in the British Open at Carnoustie, probably would have taken the week off if he wasn't the defending champion.
 
'I wouldn't say, yes, I would definitely be here,' Furyk said. 'I won't say no, I definitely wouldn't be here. It would have probably been a call on how I felt.'
 
He would have rather played Hamilton again than Angus Glen's revamped North Course.
 
'If I had to pick between here and Hamilton, I would have wanted Hamilton,' Furyk said. 'I love that golf course, but I don't think this is a bad golf course in any means. I think it's fine. It's just a totally different style.'
 
At No. 3 behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, Furyk is the top-ranked player in starting field Thursday. No. 7 Vijay Singh, the 2004 winner, also is playing, but Canadians Mike Weir (No. 36) and Stephen Ames (No. 38), and No. 46 John Rollins, the 2002 champion on the adjacent South Course, are the only other top-50 players.
 
Woods, the 2000 winner at Glen Abbey, hasn't played since 2001, and Mickelson made his last appearance in 2004.
 
The Royal Canadian Golf Association also failed to get a commitment from Davis Love III, a surprising decision after Love's design firm restructured the North Course last year in preparation for the tournament. Love created new tees, narrowed fairways and altered bunkers on the 6-year-old course designed by Jay Morrish and Canadian Doug Carrick on a former cattle ranch in the rolling hills north of Toronto.
 
'Every time we talked from THE PLAYERS Championship on, he was going to play,' tournament director Bill Paul said Tuesday. 'He's the biggest disappointment. ... Obviously, he should be here.'
 
Weir, whose 2003 Masters victory played a key role in Royal Montreal getting the Presidents Cup, is fighting to earn one of 10 automatic spots on the International team, but will likely end up as one of captain Gary Player's two picks. The Canadian tied for eighth in his last two starts, the AT&T National and British Open.
 
'I guess you'd have to ask Gary as far as where I stand in his mind. I have no idea,' Weir said. 'I can't worry about the Presidents Cup. I'm trying to get focused this week. This is a big week, so I'm not looking down the road.'
 
The 10 spots available through the world rankings will be set after the PGA Championship. Weir is 17th and Ames 18th, with Australians Aaron Baddeley, Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby also outside the top 10.
 
'I wouldn't want to be in Gary's shoes,' said Jeff Sluman, the longtime tour player who will serve as U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus' assistant.
 
Weir, from Bright's Grove on Lake Huron near the Michigan border, came close to winning in 2004 at Glen Abbey, but lost to Singh on the third extra hole. Pat Fletcher was the last Canadian winner, taking the 1954 event at Point Grey in Vancouver.
 
'Hopefully, somebody will do it soon,' Weir said. 'I hope it's me.'
 
Mark Calcavecchia, the 2005 winner at Shaughnessy in Vancouver, praised the course.
 
'With the rolling hills, it's a beautiful piece of land. It's visually appealing,' said Calcavecchia, coming off a 23rd-place tie at Carnoustie. 'I think the battle this week will be on the greens. They can come up with some really tough pins and if you hit it in the wrong place, you're going to have a hard time two-putting.'
 
Singh also pointed to the hole locations.
 
'They need to hide the pins,' Singh said. 'Otherwise, guys will go very low.'
 
Divots:
Furyk teamed with BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie in the pro-am. ... Spencer Levin, the former U.S. amateur star who won consecutive Canadian Tour events this year, topped the six qualifiers from the circuit's money list. He tied for 13th as an amateur in the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock. ... Singh tied for 27th at Carnoustie. ... The final two holes are part of the South Course. The layout was altered because of the large seating capacity around the South Course's 18th green.
 
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