(Reuters) - South African Tim Clark is looking forward to “a fun week” for his title defense at the Canadian Open where he hopes to put behind him a frustrating 2015 campaign that was derailed by elbow surgery in February.
Clark has played in just two PGA Tour events since then, and was forced to withdraw from last week’s British Open at St Andrews in Scotland due to visa problems.
Canada, however, has always been a welcome sanctuary for a golfer whose wife hails from Toronto and he is delighted to be at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario this week after winning last year’s Canadian Open at Royal Montreal.
”I was extremely proud of my win last year,“ Clark, 39, told reporters while preparing for Thursday’s opening round. ”Winning in different countries means a lot to me as a player, so that was definitely special.
”Not often do you have the opportunity of coming back and defending any sort of title, so this will be a fun week. I take pride in winning a national championship like this.
“I’ve been fortunate to win the Australian Open and the Scottish Open, the South African Open and also here, so I‘m just missing a couple big ones,” he grinned, in reference to the two majors -- the British Open and U.S. Open.
Clark had major elbow surgery in 2011 which sidelined him for most of that season, so he has been encouraged by a much earlier return to action this year after having a similar procedure in February to repair a torn tendon.
“This time I’ve only missed five months, so I feel like I’ve been able to find my game a lot quicker,” said the South African, a double champion on the PGA Tour.
“Although the (left) arm doesn’t feel a hundred percent right now, I know that the right one feels great, so it’s just a matter of time before it (the left) feels good. This is my third tournament back and my game feels pretty good.”
Clark, who clinched last year’s Canadian Open by one shot over veteran Jim Furyk, faces a strong field that includes three players in the world’s top 10 – third-ranked Bubba Watson, Furyk (seventh) and Jason Day (ninth).
A notable absentee will be American Brandt Snedeker, the 2013 champion at Glen Abbey, who has been sidelined by a hip injury.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry