LONDON, ONT — The last man in the field this week at the Canada Life Championship, Eric McCardle, earned his spot at Highland Country Club by just $69. McCardle finished 60th on the Order of Merit, qualifying for the 60-player event.
But with only 55 players in the field—an odd number that left McCardle playing by himself Thursday—he was first on the tee at the closing event of the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season, and the 29-year old trotted his way around the course in two-and-a-half hours and just 65 strokes, besting all but two of the Mackenzie Tour’s best. He takes a share of the lead with Yannik Paul and Travis Trace into the second round.
“Overall, it was a good thing playing as a single,” said McCardle. “My main goal this morning was to not get ahead of myself and to pace myself, and it really worked well, I think.”
This wasn’t the first time the Skagit Valley College alum has snuck his way into a field. Earlier this year at the Arizona Mackenzie Tour Q-School, McCardle was the last player from the alternate list to receive the call that he would play in the qualifier.
With a share of the lead, the Oak Harbor, Wash., native is confident, despite finding himself in uncharted territory.
“Going into it, I feel like I’m free rolling,” said McCardle, who has two top-25 finishes this season. “I was really close to not getting in. I missed the cut last week and was in and out of the 60th position multiple times (on the weekend in Montreal, site of the Mackenzie Investments Open).”
McCardle made birdie on two of his first three holes Thursday during steady rain before making six pars to open his front nine in 35 strokes. Catching fire early on the back, McCardle made four birdies in his next five holes to put himself at the top of the leaderboard.
Meanwhile, Paul matched McCardle’s mark at 5-under, with six birdies and a bogey, while Trace matched that number despite a double bogey on his ninth hole.
As things stand through 18 holes, Taylor Pendrith, who already clinched the Canada Life Canadian Player of the Year award, will overtake Paul Barjon and capture the Order of Merit title, win the Mackenzie Tour Player of the Year Award and earn full status on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020.
Pendrith fired a 66 Thursday while Barjon made birdie on his final two holes of the day to settle for a 2-over 72.
- At No. 60 on the Order of Merit, Eric McCardle was the last player to qualify for the Canada Life Championship. He enters the second round with a share of the lead, the first time he’s shared an end-of-round lead in his Mackenzie Tour career. McCardle’s 5-under 65 is his lowest 18-hole score since he opened with a 64 at the ATB Financial Classic in Calgary in mid-August.
- Eric McCardle’s best 2019 finish is the tie for 11th he turned in at the Players Cup in Winnipeg a month ago. McCardle, who played college golf at Skagit Valley College in Washington, also has nine career PGA TOUR Latinoamerica starts—all coming in 2017.
- This is the third time Paul Barjon has played in the Canada Life Championship and the first time he has shot an over-par round. In 2016, Barjon used rounds of 63-66-61-68 to win the tournament by a stroke over Vaita Guillaume. A year ago, Barjon tied for 32nd (69-66-70-69). Even with the 72 Thursday, Barjon has an impressive 67.11 stroke average in nine Highland rounds.
- Germany’s Yannik Paul has made 10 cuts in 11 Mackenzie Tour starts in 2019, but he hasn’t had a top-10. Paul shot an opening-round 65 and is tied for first. The Frankfurt native played college golf at the University of Colorado, where he was a teammate with his twin brother, Jeremy, also a Mackenzie Tour player.
- After missing his first cut of the year, at last week’s Mackenzie Investments Open, Patrick Fishburn bounced back nicely in the first round Thursday. He fired a 4-under 66 and is tied for fourth. He is 11th on the Order of Merit but only $324 out of the No. 10 position, held by Alex Chiarella. Finishing inside the Order of Merit top 10 would allow Fishburn to bypass the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament and advance directly to the final stage later this year in Florida.
- There are three Canadians in this week’s 55-player field. Here are their positions after the first day:
Current OOM Pos.
|T4||Taylor Pendrith (Richmond Hill, Ontario||65 (-5)||
|T12||James Allenby (Surrey, B.C.)||68 (-2)||
|T36||Riley Wheeldon (Richmond, B.C.)||71 (+1)||
- Travis Trace, at No. 15 on the Order of Merit, helped himself considerably in the first round at Highland Country Club. Trace, a University of North Florida product, opened with a 5-under 65 and is tied for first. This season, Trace has a runner-up finish (Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open) and a tie for sixth (Bayview Place Open). He’s coming off a missed cut last week in Montreal.
- Paul Barjon recorded only his fourth over-par round of the 2019 season with his 2-over 72 Thursday. Barjon made a double bogey, three bogeys and two birdies to go with 12 pars. His over-par effort ended a streak of seven consecutive under-par scores, dating to the second round of the Players Cup. Earlier this year, Barjon turned in 28 consecutive under-par rounds to begin the season.
- All 2019 tournament winners are in the field this week. Here are their Canada Life Championship positions through 18 holes as they look to add to their victory totals:
|Player||2019 Tournament Wins||
Canada Life Championship Pos.
|Derek Barron||Players Cup||
|Taylor Pendrith||1932byBateman Open
Mackenzie Investments Open
|Jake Knapp||Canada Life Open
Golf BC Championship
|Hayden Buckley||ATB Financial Classic||
|Lorens Chan||HFX Pro-Am||
|Alex Chiarella||Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open||
|Dawson Armstrong||Windsor Championship||
|Paul Barjon||Bayview Place DC Bank Open
Osprey Valley Open
- Sean Walsh has had an up-and-down first Mackenzie Tour season, shooting a 69 Thursday. He is tied for 19th through 18 holes. Walsh, a Gonzaga University product, enjoyed his lone top-10 this season at the Osprey Valley Open outside Toronto, in mid-July. He parlayed four under-par rounds that week, including a 65-66 start, to tie for seventh. He is 51st on the Order of Merit. A year ago, Walsh played on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, finishing 81st on that Tour’s Order of Merit.
- Of the four previous Canada Life Championships held at Highland Country Club, Paul Barjon’s 21-under 259 is the low score by a winner. Jason Millard and Ryan Williams both shot 15-under 265s to finish regulation tied in 2015. Millard went on to win in a playoff.
“At the beginning, it rained a little bit, but I like to grind, so I got off to a good start making birdie on the first two holes. I was hitting it solid, but the putter was really working today, and the greens are awesome. I got off to a hot start, kept the momentum going and I’m happy with my 65.” – Yannik Paul
“Jeremy and I talked about it. Last year played a little easier than this year but today played completely different than the practice rounds. It was firm and played pretty tough the last couple days in the practice rounds, but today, with all the rain, it softened up and that made it a little bit easier.” – Yannik Paul on discussions he had about the course with his twin brother
“I have a goal for this week; have a good week and finish in the top 25 or top 10 on the Order of Merit. There is a lot on the line this week. It was nice we could play in twosomes, and the pace was awesome. It’s so enjoyable to play a course like that.” – Yannik Paul
“Over the course of the season I’ve gotten off to a lot of good starts, so now it’s about taking it day by day. There is so much golf left. I’m not going to get ahead of myself.” – Yannik Paul
“Compared to last year, I think I’ve gotten so much better in every category on the course; long game, short game, putting, it all feels so much better and it shows in the course. I’ve finished inside the top 25 in seven of 11 weeks, but the money is up front, and I didn’t get close to contention so far, but hopefully that changes this week.” – Yannik Paul
“It was a great start to shoot 4-under. It feels really good. My putter saved me today. I had to adjust to how far the ball was going, I wasn’t able to swing at it too hard, but we did a good job out there, me and Mitch (caddie), and we made a lot of putts coming in.” – Taylor Pendrith
“It’s maybe 50 percent. I got kind of lucky today. There were lots of shots I was trying to hit high, and they went like 10 feet up and scooted up onto the green and then I’d make a putt. You can do it here because there isn’t really anything in front of the greens. I was just plotting my way around, bouncing some onto the greens and making a lot of pars.” – Taylor Pendrith on the status of his injured shoulder
“I was just trying to make it through the day, honestly. Sometimes I would hit my ball and I wouldn’t even watch it because, well, it was tough.” – Taylor Pendrith on shoulder pain he experienced
“I got a cortisone shot on Tuesday, and I was hoping it would kick in, but It didn’t, so I went to the Western (University) hospital this morning and got another shot, which kind of numbed my shoulder and helped a little bit, but it was wearing off. It’s sore now, so I’ll go take care of it and come back [Friday].” – Taylor Pendrith
“The short game was working, and that was about it. I don’t want to say that I hit it terribly, but it was very up and down, and I was just making half-committed swings because the wind was swirly. The short game bailed me out.” – Derek Barron
“Teeing off in the rain and the wind, honestly anything under par was a decent score. Like I said, this was probably one of the few days I’ve had in a while where I didn’t hit at least 15 greens and the short game was nasty today.” – Derek Barron
“I left it about 30 yards short, right, on No. 11. It was a tough pin, and I knocked it in. It was sick. On No. 9, I was in the left rough, about 30 yards short, and ran it up the hill to two feet. Stuff like that. My short game has felt great for the last two months, really good where I just feel comfortable, and I’m hitting my spots. Hopefully that stays around, and maybe I can tidy up the ball-striking.” – Derek Barron
Tournament Fast Fact
The Mackenzie Tour season has finished in London in each of the Tour’s seven years of existence. Sunningdale Golf and Country Club was the site the first two years before Highland Country Club became the tournament’s home, beginning in 2015. Here are all the tournament winners in London:
Max Gilbert (2013)
Ryan Williams (2014)
Jason Millard (2015)
Paul Barjon (2016)
Rico Hoey (2017)
Danny Walker (2018)
First-Round Weather: Rainy and overcast in the morning, rain heavy at times. The rain stopped in the early afternoon. High of 13. Wind 20 KPH.