OAKVILLE, Ontario — American Brendan Steele topped the Canadian Open leaderboard Thursday at 7-under 65, taking a one-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, fresh off the British Open, and two others.
"I love being up here," said Steele, who birdied five of the first seven holes on his back nine at Glen Abbey. "I played in '06 and '07 on PGA Tour Canada. And really, it got me ready to play the Nationwide Tour, which I played in '08, '09 and '10. It was a great progression in my life. I had a great time up here. Made a lot of friends and spent two summers traveling the country."
Steele, 30, won the 2011 Texas Open for his lone PGA Tour title.
Matt Kuchar, a two-time winner this year, was tied with Scott Gardiner and Scott Brown. Kuchar eagled the par-5 18th hole, his ninth hole of the day.
"It was fun to be out here. It was perfect conditions," Kuchar said. "I feel like last week, conditions were so challenging and so difficult at the British Open, to come here and to play golf that is more friendly and more what we're used to the PGA Tour was great."
Hunter Mahan and David Lingmerth shot 67, and Chez Reavie, the 2008 winner at Glen Abbey, was another stroke back in a group that included Bubba Watson and Trevor Immelman.
"Gave myself a lot of good looks, and the greens were rolling true," Mahan said. "It's in great shape right now. (This) morning, we'll have perfect conditions."
Brandt Snedeker opened with 70, and Ernie Els and defending champion Scott Piercy followed at 71. Piercy won last year at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.
Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel and Canadian Mike Weir shot 73, Dustin Johnson struggled to 75, and Graeme McDowell had 76.
Brad Fritsch was the top Canadian at 69.
Pat Fletcher, born in England, was the last Canadian winner, taking the 1954 event at Point Grey in Vancouver. Carl Keffer is the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Albert Murray, a Canadian also born in England, won in 1908 and 1913.
Champions: American Gene Sauers mastered a stiff breeze to shoot 3-under 67 for a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Senior British Open at sunny Royal Birkdale in Southport, England. Only 10 of the 144 players bettered par.
"I hit a lot of solid shots in the wind, so it didn't really mess with me too much," Sauers, 50, said. "I'm really pleased with the way I played. This is only my third British Open, and it's a great privilege and honor to be here."
Four players were at 68, among them 2010 champion Bernhard Langer. Langer finished with birdies on three of his last four holes.
"I was very pleased with my long game, and finally the putter started working at the end," he said.
At 69 was a group of five that included 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin. Defending champion Fred Couples and Mark O'Meara, who won the 1998 British Open at Birkdale, shot 74. Colin Montgomerie, their playing partner and a senior rookie, was two strokes better.