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Canadian Hill rewarded with PGA Tour start

Mike Weir and Matt Hill, back, both from Canada, walk to the ninth green during the practice round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club Wednesday, June 2, 2010, in Dublin, Ohio.

Tony Dejak/The Associated Press

Matt Hill has parlayed his success on the Canadian Tour this season into another start on the PGA Tour.

The 24-year-old Canadian has been granted a sponsor's exemption into the Open, which begins Thursday at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif.

The former amateur standout will be making his second start of the year on the big tour and 12th of his career.

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After a Canadian Tour season in which he won his first tournament on the circuit, led the money list and scooped rookie-of-the-year honours, Hill's representatives at IMG petitioned the tournaments in the PGA Tour's Fall Series for exemptions.

"There's a lot of momentum around Matt's brand right now," said Danny Fritz, Hill's agent at IMG. Open tournament director Duke Butler had been in Canada during the summer and noticed Hill's play. He put the Sarnia, Ont., native on his shortlist of players to consider for one of the three remaining available spots.

Last Friday, Butler extended an offer to Hill to tee it up alongside PGA Tour players again. Hill, now based in Jupiter, Fla., at the Dye Preserve course, then jumped on a plane and was on the West Coast in time to participate in the tournament's pro-am Monday.

Hill, Canada's ninth-highest-ranked male golfer, will play the first two rounds with Kyle Thompson of the United States and Brazilian Alexandre Rocha.

He had one of the greatest U.S. college seasons in history, winning eight times in the 2009 season. He turned pro in May of 2010 and has spent his time since honing his game on U.S. mini-tours and the Canadian Tour.

His victory on home soil this year came at the Dakota Dunes Casino Open last July. He also had a runner-up finish and two other top 10s, earning close to $50,000.

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At CordeValle, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout in the foothills of Northern California's Santa Cruz mountains, Hill will be one of five Canadians in the field.

He'll join Stephen Ames, David Hearn, Matt McQuillan and Mike Weir, a two-time Open champion. Weir, also from Sarnia, got in on a sponsor's exemption as well.

Coming off injury and surgery in 2011 and struggling to regain his form, Weir has yet to make a cut this year on the PGA Tour.

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