May 28, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, AL -- These are good times for Canadian golf.

Strong performances at the Fort Worth Invitational by Corey Conners of Listowel, ON, and and Ben Silverman of Thornhill, ON, moved each of them into the top 125 of the FedEx Cup standings, the hallowed ground where players keep their playing privileges for next season.

Conners, 26, had rounds of 71-68-63-69 at Colonial to finish tied for eighth, his best finish of the season. Silverman, a rookie on the Tour at age 30, had rounds of 66-69-72-65 (29 on the front nine Sunday) and finished T11 to go with his T7 at Sanderson Farms and a T8 at The RSM Classic earlier this season.

Silverman's got an awesome short game: he's holed out 20 times from off the green this season (the average is five), according to The Golf Channel.

Silverman's a great story of bucking the odds: he took up golf seriously relatively late, at 16 after deciding hockey (he weighs 160 pounds now) wasn't for him and, as the story goes, shot 118 in his first junior tournament. He stuck with it. He worked at Golf Town. He worked on his game and was a walk on at Florida Atlantic University. He turned pro and played mini-, mini-tours, worked his way up Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada and to the Tour where he won last year to help him get his PGA Tour card.

Silverman didn't have to look for inspiration when it came to having what looked like an unconventional dream for a Canadian kid from Toronto: his dad, Howard, decided he wanted to be a world-class jazz musician and wound up playing with Dizzy Gillespie.

There are four Canadians inside the top 125 of the FedEx Cup right now: Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, BC, slipped two spots to 47th and Nick Taylor, a native of Winnipeg, is 116th.

On the women's side, Smiths Falls' Brooke and Brittany Henderson are in Birmingham, AL, for the U.S. Women's Open. The U.S. Open is at Shoal Creek, a Jack Nicklaus design which hosted the 1984 and 1990 PGA Championships.

Brooke took a rare week off last week to prepare and will be one of the favourites. She's coming off a solo fourth at the Kingsmill Championship where she had back-to-back 65s and a hot putter: she used 29 putts in each of her final two rounds.

Brooke Henderson at the U.S. Open:

2017, Trump National, T13
2016, Cordevale, 64th
2015, Lancaster, T5
2014, Pinehurst, T10
2013, Sebonak, T59

Henderson is off the first tee at 1:48 p.m. Thursday with Brittany Lincicome and Hye-Jin Choi.

Weather could be an issue: a state of emergency in southern Alabama was declared Sunday in advance of Subtropical Storm Alberto, the first storm of hurricane season, making landfall sometime Monday.

Rain is expected in Birmingham through Wednesday which should make Shoal Creek play long this week, which should be a benefit to Henderson and other long hitters in the field. The long-term forecast is for isolated thunderstorms starting Thursday.

Other Canadians in the field are Alena Sharp or Hamilton and 17-year-old qualifier Celeste Dao of Notre-Dame-de-l'Île-Perrot, QC.

FROM THE FRINGE: One of the best examples of why we watch sports - the original reality TV - is because you might see something like this: The Arizona Wildcats won the NCAA women's golf championship in a playoff over Alabama after needing a playoff just to make it into the match play portion of the event. Incredibly, Bianca Pagdanganan made an eagle putt on the final hole of the medal qualifying to get into a playoff with Baylor to make it into the final eight. They upset No. 1 seeded UCLA in their first match and then knocked off No. 5 Stanford to advance to the final at Karsten Creek Golf Club. Against Alabama, Arizona's Haley Moore tied the final and deciding match with a birdie on the 18th hole and then won it with another birdie on the 19th hole. Great stuff. The men's championship is moving to the match play portion on Tuesday. ... I usually get on my knees to pray when I see my ball go into a bunker: ... Rory McIlroy had a rough day at the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour Saturday when he hit two spectators and a marshall. His reaction when he hit a woman on the hand looks like Mr. Bean took up golf: ... Finally, I miss Tim Herron on the PGA Tour:

Follow me on Twitter @CJ_Stevenson

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