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In pursuit of Pat Fletcher: Golf’s improbable mission at the RBC Canadian Open

Graham Delaet of Canada watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during the third round of the British Open golf …

On the eve of this country's national golf championship, the name of Canada's most famous golfer is bouncing off the trees and rattling around the bunkers at Glen Abbey Golf Course.

No, it's not Mike Weir, Stephen Ames or any of the other Canucks entered in the RBC Canadian Open. The most publicized name in these parts is Pat Fletcher, golf's version of the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs.

Every summer, Fletcher's name is dusted off for public display as Canadian golfers once again try to end a drought that is approaching the 1908 Chicago Cubs for the longest losing streak in sports history. It's been 59 years since a Canadian, the aforementioned Mr. Fletcher, won the national championship.

That streak of futility almost makes the Leafs look like a dynasty in comparison.

There's a strong field of up-and-comers from the Great White North. In fact, there are more Canadians considered possible contenders than ever.

There are 19 in all, but a handful stand out -- though none really can be considered favourites.

There's Mike Weir, who came within a bad playoff hole of ending the drought in 2004 at Glen Abbey. Weir's had a rough time of it since that fateful day when his third shot on the third playoff hole against Vijay Singh landed in the water and kept the run of futility going.

But Weir, laid low by injuries the past few years, is starting to look more like the Mike Weir of old recently. But making the cut, something he didn't do once in 2012, and finishing 28th at the U.S. Open doesn't exactly have bookies listing Weir among the guys to beat.

The next generation of Canadians might be a better bet. Graham DeLaet is playing the best golf of his career and has finished in the top 10 five times this season. He might even have the kind of game required to beat the Abbey.

David Hearn came within a whisker of his first PGA victory a few weeks ago at the John Deere Classic, missing a makeable putt that would have won a playoff. He's been in the top 25 in four of his last six tournaments, so might be peaking at the right time.

You can throw tour rookie Brad Fritsch into the pack pursuing Fletcher, too. He's made the cut in 16 of his 25 tournaments and if you make the cut, you have a chance.

But this isn't an all-Canadian event, so knocking Fletcher off his pedestal will require beating some pretty impressive foreigners. The biggest names -- British Open winner Phil Mickelson and that Woods guy -- won't be here but the field is strong.

Americans Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson have games that could tame Glen Abbey. So do Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.

Of course, this tournament has a history of producing surprise winners, with the likes of Scott Piercy, Nathan Green and Chez Reavie hoisting the trophy in recent years.

That could be comfort to the Canadians trying to end a streak that's more than a little embarrassing.

 

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