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At Canadian Open, golfers get a rough idea of what the gnarly US Open will be like

Aaron Cockerill took a chunk out of the course as he hit out of the rough on the 11th hole in Thursday's first round of the Canadian Open.Nathan Denette/Associated Press

TORONTO — Nobody likes the spinach.

Oh sure, that leafy green vegetable that Popeye relied on so heavily is fine and dandy, but that thick stuff that runs along the fairways of golf courses far and wide? Well, that just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Competitors at next week’s US Open at The Country Club will be served a full course of the rough stuff, and dealing with it won’t be as easy as shoving it to the side of your plate and hoping mom doesn’t notice.

Those who set up the Canadian Open this week have done their best to make the venerable St. George’s Golf and Country Club whet the appetite of many who will tee it up in Brookline next week.

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St. George’s is a 7,014-yard, par-70 layout that features myriad elevation changes, sloping greens, and, of course, thick, gnarly, spinach-like rough that has been biting back.

Popeye’s forearms would come in handy.

“The rough here is very thick; it’s definitely very good preparation for next week,” said world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler following his 3-under-par 67 Friday that left him at 4 under heading into the weekend. “I don’t think it’s as thick as it will be next week; the USGA has some way of making it thicker than everywhere else.”

Sam Burns, one of Scheffler’s playing competitors, saw a bit more of the spinach than he would have liked Friday.

“I would say so,’’ said Burns, who was 1 under in Round 2 and also sits at 4 under. “I mean, I feel a little sore today after how many times I had to hit it out of the rough.

“But I think it’s a great test. I mean, this week and next week, huge importance off the tee, getting the ball in the fairway and, like I said, I need to do a little bit better of a job going forward.”

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Matt Fitzpatrick hits from the rough on the 14th hole during Friday's action at the Canadian Open.Nathan Denette/Associated Press

Burns emphasized the importance of staying confident in your approach when it comes to digging your ball out of the high grass.

“Most of the ones I had today were not guessing,” he said. “It was grabbing a lofted club and trying to get it up in front of the green or in a place where I can make a par.”

Not every lie is the same in the rough; sometimes you can barely see your ball, sometimes you can barely see your spikes. Other lies will give you a decent chance to make hay. They almost all come out differently.

“You can get some where you can advance it pretty good,” said Burns, “and you get some where, like on 4 today, I mean, I had to hit a 9-iron and just that’s as far as I could hit it. Like a lot of the ones I had, I just tried to take a lofted club and open the face and just hack it out.’’

Scheffler, Burns, and a gaggle of others are using this week as a quiz before next week’s major test in New England.

Scottie Scheffler walks across the 14th hole during Friday's action at the Canadian Open.Vaughn Ridley/Getty

“It’s definitely good prep,’’ said Scheffler, who competed in the 2013 US Amateur at TCC. “This golf course has some holes that look somewhat similar to what I remember from Brookline. It’s definitely a good prep week.”

Though some players opt for rest with a major on the horizon, both Scheffler and Burns like the idea of staying sharp.

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“Typically, I play a week before a major,” said Scheffler. “That’s something that’s worked for me well in the past. I kind of like playing into those events. So, for me, getting a good prep week here where I can get some practice in, and the golf course is somewhat similar is really helpful.”

Burns said he’s been eager to play St. George’s and in front of fans, who were robbed of the Canadian Open the last two years because of COVID.

“I prefer to play the week before, especially an event like this,” said Burns, who hasn’t yet played TCC. “It hasn’t happened in a couple years and I know the Canadian fans are really excited for us to be here this week. We’re all excited to play.

“I’ve been looking forward to coming up here for a while now. So, it’s a really fun week for me. It’s fun to be out here in front of these fans and it’s a great prep for next week.”

Scheffler, who reached the quarterfinals of that 2013 US Amateur, recalled the energy around and the difficulty of TCC.

“I remember it being really hard,” said Scheffler, who collected his first major championship this year at the Masters. “I remember the greens being really small. I still have my book. I actually looked at it a tiny bit last week and from what I saw and remember, the greens are still really small.”

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He has done some research on the many tweaks at TCC, including the 133-yard par-3 11th, which was not part of the last two US Opens at the course in 1963 and 1988.

“It looks pretty cool,” Scheffler said.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.