David Hearn: Embracing RBC Canadian Open expectations

David Hearn, of Canada, tees off on the fourth hole in the final round of the Barbasol Championship golf tournament, Sunday, July 23, 2017, in Opelika, Ala. AP Photo/Butch Dill

I’ve long ago stopped trying to convince myself the RBC Canadian Open is simply another tournament.

Being Canadian is feeling that interest when you play your national open—it is the pride of the players and the fans. The Australians feel it when they go home. I’m sure the Irish players feel it at the Irish Open and the Scots feel it at the Scottish Open.

Will a Canadian win it? We’ve had close calls, and I’m sure it’ll happen. But they’ll have to keep a clear vision and try to treat it like any other event. However, it is hard—because it is your national championship.

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To my way of thinking, it is nice to come into a tournament where the fans are expecting you to play well and contend. It is how Tiger Woods felt every week at his peak, or what Phil Mickelson must experience when he tees it up. While the Canadians on the PGA Tour don’t have those resumes, they feel the same expectations that fall of Tiger and Phil week in and week out. I like it.

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Personally, I try to tone down my expectations every week I play. That’s part of what can get you in trouble—when you expect too much of yourself you can get off course. So in that way, you need to treat the Canadian Open like it is just another PGA Tour event, even though in the back of your mind you recognize it isn’t.

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One of the big challenges for Canadians is dealing with the demands—media, sponsors, and fans—that occurs at the Canadian Open. Trust me, for most of us it doesn’t happen every week. With experience, I’ve learned how to best deal with those challenges so I can perform.

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There are players like Jordan Spieth and Jason Day who knew how to deal with the challenges and demands of a big week out of the gate. But for most of us it is something you learn through experience. However, I also think it is why you can have a younger player come in under the radar and do really well, like Jared du Toit last year. Most of the fans don’t know them well, so they don’t expect them to contend. Now Jared is a professional and people know who he is and it will be different for him coming to the Canadian Open this year. I suspect he’ll do great, but he comes with expectations. It is a totally different perspective coming to the course, but the experience of playing beside Jon Rahm at Arizona State will really help him.

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One thing I do a lot of at the Canadian Open is interact with fans. That comes from my experience of going to Glen Abbey as a kid, and really enjoying getting autographs in practice rounds and meeting the players.

I remember as a kid running into players that you really looked up to who skipped by you or ignored you. I don’t necessarily remember the names of those players, but I remember the feeling of disappointment. It changes your perspective on the player—and I want to give back to the fans as long as they are interested.

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Now I have perspective on it as a pro, and it is a part I really enjoy. My autograph isn’t worth much—but it means a lot to the younger kids who come to see you play and I really enjoy that part of it. I feel very fortunate to have people consider me a role model and I try very hard to live up to that. After pretty much every round I’ll sign every autograph people want from me. I’m not ever going to walk past people—it is just what I think I should do.

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