OAKVILLE, Ont. – The guy who didn’t play was the biggest story of the day at the third round of the RBC Canadian Open.
Overnight leader Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament inside of an hour before his tee time when his wife went into labor three weeks before her due date. The couple was expecting their first child. Mahan, who led by two strokes, was warming up when his wife reached him by phone while being driven to a Dallas hospital. He immediately packed up and left for the airport. (Click here for the full story)
Brandt Snedeker, the 54-hole leader, can relate – sort of. He pulled out the first round of the 2011 Honda Classic when his first child, daughter Lily, was born. Snedeker torched Glen Abbey for nine birdies in a round of 63 and grabbed a one-stroke lead over rookie David Lingmerth. Only 12 of 29 54-hole leaders have converted on Tour this season, but that didn’t seem to bother Snedeker, who has converted two of his last three 54-hole leads. He said he prefers to play with the lead than come from behind. “Just because you have room to make a mistake,” he said.
With low scoring in the forecast tomorrow, he won’t be able to make many. Here are 5 Things you need to know:
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1. EARLY ARRIVAL: Hunter Mahan had just finished a session on the practice putting green and had struck two shots on the range before his 2:50 p.m. tee time when his agent handed him a cell phone. The moment where wife Kandi tells Mahan that she’s gone into labor was caught on tape for posterity by a CBS cameraman and you can hear Mahan answer, “Oh, you are,” and answer, “Okay.” With a smile on his face, he packed up his gear, withdrew from the tournament and rushed to the airport to catch a flight to Dallas. According to his caddie, John Wood, the Mahans obstetrician was optimistic that Mahan would arrive in time to be with his wife for the birth. The Mahans are expecting a daughter, and planned to name her Zoey. For the full story, click here.
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2. YOUR TOURNAMENT LEADER IS SNEEE-DEK-ER: When Brandt Snedeker looked at the leaderboard on the seventh tee and Mahan’s name was missing, he knew something had happened. “I looked at my caddie and I go, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Snedeker said. “Everything kind of flipped with Hunter leaving…I knew going into today I was going to have to play perfect golf to catch him. He was playing that well.”
With the tournament lead suddenly up for grabs, Snedeker swung into overdrive. He hit 16 of 18 greens in a bogey-free round of 63.
“You had to be aggressive out there,” he said. “Every time I got a chance I was going at it with my irons, and I rolled it well.”
That he did. Snedeker led the field in strokes-gained putting in the third round (+4.272) and also leads the field in par-4 scoring (3.63).
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3. CONTENDING AGAIN: Matt Kuchar took advantage of benign conditions to shoot a bogey-free, 8-under 64. Kuchar birdied all four of the par 5s to climb into a share of third place at 12 under, two shots off the pace. Kuchar bounced back from a Friday 74, and is surprised to find himself bidding for his third title of the year, thanks to Mahan’s withdrawal.
“It made it a lot more exciting day for I think the rest of us,” he said. “I think Hunter right now is playing some of the best golf of anybody in the world. To be in the final group of the U.S. Open, final group of the British Open, come here playing just great golf, you knew he was just going to continue making a lot of birdies, continuing to play good golf. I think his lead was only going to grow.”
Kuchar, a parent of two children, couldn’t remember a 36-hole leader withdrawing, but he completely supported Mahan’s decision.
“It’s something that’s special, something that’s completely magical and unforgettable,” Kuchar said. “I hope with the early birth everything is safe and everybody is well. I think Hunter has got to make sure he takes care of his family. That’s first and foremost.”
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4. DJ RIDES A HOT PUTTER TO 63: Dustin Johnson matched Snedeker for the low round of the day with a flawless 63. Johnson switched from his trusty Scotty Cameron by Titleist putter to a 35-inch TaylorMade counterbalanced Spider Mallet, model No. 12 with an aluminum “Pure Roll” insert. Johnson’s putting with the new wand has improved each round, according to the Tour’s strokes-gained putting stat: from 111th (-0.874) to 56th (0.536) to fourth (+2.649).
Johnson capped off his round by drilling his second shot at the par-5 finishing hole to less than 5 feet and canned the putt for eagle. That helped Johnson improve from T-56 to T-5, and three strokes off the lead.
“At least I should have a shot,” he said.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: David Lingmerth started the day with a snap-hook tee shot that was “ugly,” but settled down and eagled the last to shoot 65. It’s the second time this season that the rookie from Sweden will play in the final group … David Hearn posted a 68 to take the lead for low-Canadian at 5-under … Canadian Brad Fritsch withdrew before the round with a back injury. He entered the week ranked No. 125 in the FedEx Cup standings … Jason Kokrak aced the par-3 fourth hole with a pitching wedge from 158 yards … Snedeker, Vijay Singh and Charley Hoffman all shot 6-under 29 on the front nine … Hoffman and James Hahn are the only players in the field to break 70 every day … John Merrick, began the third round with the lead when Mahan withdrew. Playing as a single, he shot 4-over 39 on the front, but rallied on the last four holes to shoot even (11 under) and stayed in contention at T-5 … Play was suspended due to dangerous weather at noon and resumed 80 minutes later … A 54-hole cut reduced the field to low-70 and ties. Graeme McDowell and Ryo Ishikawa were among the casualties.