Canadian Tour Finishing Up Out West

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Canadian Tour-LargePATTERSON, Calif. -- To no ones surprise, Stuart Andersons paramount focus this week will be successfully defending his California Classic championship out on the west coast.

Of course, as is almost customary for a good ol Canadian boy at this time of year, another sport will be front and centre when Anderson is away from Diablo Grande.

After a tooth-and-nail scrap to get into the post-season, Andersons revered Edmonton Oilers cleared their final hurdle this past weekend and seem destined to tangle with the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings when the Stanley Cup playoffs get underway later this week.

While he admits he is not much of a television watcher, Anderson concedes he is catching most of the Oiler games from the comfort of his truck, which is equipped with satellite radio.

Oh yeah, its that time of year if you are from Canada, he says from the Golden State, where he is gearing up for this weeks Diablo Grande California Classic. You can bet Ill be watching the scoreboard.

Have to support the hometown boys.

Special thanks to the (San Jose) Sharks for dusting off the (Vancouver) Canucks (last weekend).

But with all due respect to the Oilers and the quest for Lord Stanleys ancient urn, Anderson has bigger issues this week as the Canadian Tour wraps up a two-event run through California at scenic Diablo Grande Winery and Resort.

At the outset of the 2006 campaign, Anderson was looking to build on his most successful season as a professional. Months after representing Canada at the 2004 World Cup, the Edmonton resident not only notched his first Tour title but was the top Canadian on the money list, finishing fifth.

So far, in the early stages of this season, the blueprint has not gone according to plan.

Its one of those things, admits Anderson, who had his best showing in three starts with a T32nd at the Northern California Classic late last month. The ball just isnt going in the hole as fast as I want. Im definitely struggling with my putter, but Ill get it turned around. Its early.

At times, Anderson, like so many others that hit golf balls for a living, can be his own worst enemy. More often than not, you wont be a guest of honour at a Sunday afternoon trophy presentation.

Youll be watching someone else give an acceptance speech most weeks. It is just the law of averages.

For a guy that has tasted victory, it is a mindset not easily accepted.

I wear my heart on my sleeve when I play and I almost have to get out of that mode, adds Anderson. Once you win, you almost expect to do it every week. Ive improved every year Ive been out here, and at times I put too much pressure on myself.

Things got off to an ominous start this year.

For most of the week at the season-opener in Austin, Tex. Anderson fought a losing battle with an excrusciatingly painful abscessed tooth.

Now, standing at 64 and tipping the scales 230, Anderson has a high threshold for pain. But trying to walk a 7000-yard course in constant agony is not an ideal recipe for success.

As could almost be expected, he found himself at 9-over with four holes to play on Friday afternoon. In a desperate charge to make the cut, Anderson poured in four straight birdies on his way in.

The late surge wasnt enough; he missed the number by one.

I was just trying too hard in Austin. Finally I said Trust yourself and live with your mistakes. I took the positives out of (those final holes) and tried to build on that.

As the Tour sets up shop in Patterson this week, Anderson understands patience will be a virtue at Diablo Grande. The track, designed by legends Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazan, will offer a stiff test all four days.

Its going to be a tough week for everyone, Anderson says matter-of-factly. Its a fantastic golf course, but the way it is set up will make for some long days. It will be a test of patience in Patterson, but Im excited. This will be an ideal week to get things turned around. You always want to play well when you have a chance to defend.

Im ready physically. Beginning Monday, Ill sit down and mentally prepare myself.

You arent likely to hear Stuart Anderson complain all that often. On the course, he is as tenacious as they come; after his scorecard is signed, he is a pretty laid-back, serene kind of guy. But he is somewhat surprised, perhaps a little concerned, that his breakthrough 2005 season didnt lead to any potential sponsors knocking on his door. With a World Cup appearance, a Bell Canadian Open berth and top Canadian kudos added to his resume, Anderson figured others would take notice. But the possible suitors have remained silent.

As Anderson stresses, he isnt looking for a free ride. He knows it is up to him to deliver, and he did just that in 2005. In the past nine years, only six Canadians'Mike Weir, Jon Mills, Derek Gillespie (twice), Ian Leggatt, Rob McMillan and Ray Stewart'have ended the season on a loftier perch on the money list.

Anderson is left scratching his head, but you can see he is walking on eggshells when the topic is brought up.

He just doesnt know what else he has to do.

Im not sure what to think, but I think it is a case of having liquid cash to get to that next level. It certainly helps and allows you to focus on your game and get ready for October (the start of PGA Tour qualifying). Im not complaining, believe me, but I think a lot of good Canadian talent is falling through the cracks.

I was fifth on our money list last year with some pretty impressive company, but I just cant seem to get that help I need. Its just added pressure and, to be honest, I think that is getting to me. There have been a lot of broken promises. I just want to play golf.

As he gets set to begin preparations for his title defence in Patterson, Anderson has time to contemplate his hometown Oilers chances in their opening round showdown with the powerhouse Red Wings. It takes about three seconds before he answers.

Edmonton in six.

Youve got to love an underdog.