Good vibes have returned to the Canadian Open, but we should have expected that. This is the place of Canada Nice, and it totally lives up to the hype.
Rory McIlroy seems to be feeling great again, taking just 67 second-round strokes to help him back into contention after what has been an impossibly weird week. We are at the only Tour stop that would chant Corey Conners’ name to the tune of Olé, but that is exactly what’s happening when he’s one back after 36 holes.
But if you were looking for the best vibes on site at Oakdale Golf and Country Club, you needed a credential and a byline. They came in an area we call Quick Quotes, where players get interviewed after their rounds, when Harry Higgs rolled in fresh off a 66. He wasn’t just excited. He was relieved. He said he was thrilled to be playing golf like himself, and “not like someone impersonating Harry Higgs.”
What did that mean?
“I feel really light and really airy right now. That’s a nice thing,” he said. ”I haven’t done it in probably over a year.”
Higgs has been on an unenviable journey. The typically jolly competitor known for unbuttoning a deep V into his polos has just one top 10 in his last 45 Tour events dating back to fall 2021. He’s spent the last 18 months missing more cuts than he’s made. He arrived in Canada riding a four-week missed cut streak, battling a two-way miss. When he was reminded of it in Quick Quotes, he was plenty candid: “Sure,” he said. “I have not played good golf at all.”
It can be a lonely place, this golf world. Tour pros seemed to band together this week, but most struggles are not shared. The individual nature of this sport is felt strongest when the golf isn’t good. Phrasing turns from “we,” inclusive of the caddie, to a much lonelier “I”. Every pro holds himself to a standard higher than he’s probably capable of achieving. For instance, Scottie Scheffler isn’t content unless he’s holding a trophy.
As for Higgs? There’s been a technical issue in his swing. He described it as his arms needing to lead; to be in front of him. When he doesn’t do this, his arms feel “stuck behind”, leading to a right miss. (Though he’ll take a right miss over a two-way miss any day.) It works on the driving range, but not nearly as much on the course. Have you heard that before? Life on the PGA Tour became like work for Higgs, he said, a lot quicker than he hoped it would. Hitting bad shots in front of people — be it hundreds or just a dozen — was something he had to get used to. It’s part of pro golf. How do you handle it? Whatever the answer, Higgs hadn’t found it. Frustration multiplied. A vicious cycle.
“I have been pretty miserable on the golf course for probably a year plus,” he said. “Like I was just tired of it. So it shouldn’t have lasted a year. It should last a week. I allowed it to last a year.”
And yet, he somehow felt like good golf was coming. Why? Baby steps. The benefits of a four-week missed-cut streak are few and vague, but the clearest one is a resetting of expectations. Higgs says he’s able to swing with his arms in front of him about 50 percent of the time now; some days it’s more, other days it’s less. On Thursday, he says he made one perfect swing that felt the way he intended. Then, on Friday, maybe 10 or 12 of those swings, a handful of birdies and zero bogeys. On Saturday, he hopes for more than 10 or 12.
“Today was the first day in a long time where people were screaming and yelling at me. Encouraging me. And that I looked up,” Higgs said. “It was certainly easier because I was playing a very nice round of golf. But it shouldn’t, that shouldn’t matter. I should be able to look up and appreciate that there are people that root for me. Sometimes they say some pretty stupid stuff, but even when they say stupid stuff — look up, smile, wave, that’s just a way to enjoy it.”
The Higgs we watch in contention this weekend (and elsewhere in the future) might be most purposeful in that exact sense. Of taking time to smell the roses. To relish that what he does is both “the greatest game” and also “the most miserable as well,” as he said Friday. Just because it earned him praise in Round 2 doesn’t mean it couldn’t punch back in Round 3. Higgs is two shots back after 36 holes and is aware of that as ever.
“I thought I did a really good job of it the last two days,” Higgs said, “and there’s no guarantee that I’ll continue to do a great job of it … Whether I go out tomorrow and shoot a couple over and don’t hit any good shots. Like just find a way to enjoy it.”