A total of 132 golfers will tee it up in the opening round at Barton Creeks 6523-yard, par-70 Crenshaw Cliffside course with Sundays winner collecting a $24,000 winners check. Two weeks ago, the final of three Winter Qualifying Schools was staged at Barton Creek before Brad Sutterfield captured his first Canadian Tour title, defeating Mario Tiziani in a playoff this past Sunday at the season-opening Barton Creek Classic.
Sutterfield heads into this week looking to become the first player to win back-to-back official events since New Zealands Steven Alker won the final two tournaments of the 2000 season on his way to the Order of Merit crown.
One year ago, Rob Johnson nailed down his first Tour championship at this event in perhaps the most bizarre weekend in Canadian Tour history. Torrential rains flooded Barton Creek on Thursday and Friday, rendering the course unplayable. For the first time ever, a 72-hole tournament was reduced to two rounds and Johnson, who completed his second round late Saturday, watched his first triumph from the comfort of a Golf Channel broadcast booth on Sunday afternoon. Johnson would go on to win the TELUS Edmonton Open later in the summer and wind up second to Jon Mills on the money list.
Tiziani, the 2003 Northern Ontario Open champion, heads into this week looking to rebound from Sundays disappointing playoff. On the first extra hole, his chip from behind the green ran right over the carpet and into Barton Creek, essentially giving Sutterfield the title. Tiziani had carded a final round 65 Sunday, the low round of the week, to erase a four-shot deficit. Sophomore Craig Taylor is coming off a third-place showing, his best result on the Canadian Tour, and sits third on the Order of Merit after the opening week.
Other international players to watch this week include Americans Erik Compton. Scott Ford, Robert Hamilton, Mark Johnson, Kris Mikkelsen, Conrad Ray, Craig Kanada, Jason Schultz, Steve Scott, Chris Wall and Chris Wisler. Australians Ben Bunny and Peter Wilson, Iain Steel (Malaysia), Paul Devenport (New Zealand), Alex Quiroz (Mexico), Anders Hultman (Sweden) and Alex Rocha (Brazil) will also be looking to end the Texas swing on a winning note.
Leading the Canadian charge this week will be rookie Dan Swanson, who finished T4 last weekend, and two-time Tour champion Derek Gillespie. After an opening-round 77 last week, Gillespie would rebound and eventually place tenth. Other players from north of the 49th to keep an eye on include Lee Curry, David Hearn, Rob McMillan, Bryan DeCorso, Wes Heffernan, Darren Griff, Craig Matthew, Adam Short and 2003 Rookie of the Year Dustin Risdon.