TORONTO, Canada: Emiliano Grillo, who began the week not knowing if he would even be able to get into the country, fired an eight-under 64 for a one-shot lead after the first round of the Canadian Open.
The 22-year-old Argentinian went bogey free to lead Vaughn Taylor and Brian Harman on Thursday (Friday in Manila) after qualifying to play in this PGA Tour event as a result of his top-10 finish at last week’s Barbasol Championship in Alabama.
Americans Harman and Taylor carded matching seven-under 65s and they share second place at the Glen Abbey Golf Club.
Erik Compton, Steve Wheat¬croft, South African Tyrone Van Aswegen and 17-year-old Australian Ryan Ruffels are one shot further back and tied for fourth following six-under 66s.
Grillo has never won in North America as he spends most of his time playing on the European Tour but he might consider a move in the future as has adapted quickly to the conditions on this side of the Atlantic.
Once he learned he was eligible to play this week, Grillo’s first priority was to try and get a Canadian visa.
After talking to a few people, he decided the best way to get one was to travel to the US-Canada border and apply in person. So he flew to Buffalo, New York then drove to the border to take his chances.
“Yeah, it was a crazy week. The last eight, nine days has been crazy,” Grillo said. “They told me that I wasn’t able to get a visa in time, so I had to go to the Canadian border and ask for permission to play this tournament.
“I basically asked them and told them I don’t have a visa. ‘I’m here to ask you for a permit’.
“There is a kind of exception for athletes, but Canada has to gain something, and I have to gain something, so it kind of worked.
“Just pay the permit and go ahead. I’m here now and a good, solid round today.”
Grillo won the Argentine Open last year and lost in a playoff earlier this year at the Puerto Rico Open. On Thursday, he finished with eight birdies, including three on the four par-fives.
Taylor was also in the field after a top-10 result last week, and Harman had a stretch of four consecutive birdies and eight overall with one bogey in his round.
Defending champion Tim Clark, of South Africa, carded an even-par 72, putting him in a tie for 88th and eight shots back.
Leading scores opening round of the USPGA Tour’s Canadian Open:
64 – Emiliano Grillo (ARG)
65 – Vaughn Taylor, Brian Harman
66 – Erik Compton, Steve Wheat¬croft, Tyrone Van Aswegen (RSA), a-Ryan Ruffels (AUS)
67- Chad Campbell, Robert Garri¬gus, Johnson Wagner, Eric Axley, Alex Prugh, William McGirt, Jim Herman, Chesson Hadley, JJ Spaun
68 – Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Neal Lancaster, Heath Slocum, Ricky Barnes, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Andres Romero, Jason Day (AUS), Martin Flores, Colt Knost, Noh Seung-Yul (KOR), Scott Pinckney, Blayne Barber, Brooks Koepka, Austin Cook.