L’ILE-BLIZARD, Quebec – One day after matching the Royal Montreal Golf Club course record, Jim Furyk played bogey-free and carded a 5-under 65 to claim a three-stroke lead over Tim Clark heading into the final round of the RBC Canadian Open.
But Furyk has been in this position too many times to be caught looking ahead.
“There is a good round out there,” he said. “Guys can go out there and fire a low one and definitely put some heat on the last group.”
Can Furyk close and collect his third championship north of the border and his 17th PGA Tour title? Here’s the rub: Furyk is winless in his last six attempts carrying the 54-hole lead or co-lead. Furyk has thought a lot about those failures in the aftermath and then has tried to erase them from the memory bank. What has he learned?
“Probably if I had to pinpoint one thing, physically or mentally, I’d say just putting a lot of pressure on myself and maybe trying a little bit too hard.”
Here are 5 Things to know from the third round in Canada:
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1. SCRAMBLING MAN: Furyk extended his bogey-free streak to 50 holes (he made his only bogey at the fourth hole in the first round). But there were several scares in the third round. At the first hole, his drive skittered into the left bunker and he fatted his second shot 90 yards short. But he knocked his third to 4 feet and rolled in the par save.
There was more trouble at the sixth where his hybrid landed long and left. He pitched to 12 feet and canned the putt. There was no trouble to avert at the ninth, however. Furyk stiffed a 9-iron to inches.
“That’s a gimme, Jimmy,” a spectator joked, drawing a smile from Furyk.
Two holes later, Furyk was in danger of making bogey or worse. His hybrid missed the green and after a drop he faced a hardpan lie. Trying to take a big number out of the equation, he pitched into the hill and the ball ran on to the green.
“For it to end up 15 feet was a bonus and then actually making the putt, I definitely feel like I stole one,” he said. “You walk out of there with a par that’s a huge boost of confidence.”
Furyk had one more trick up his sleeve at the 16th, rescuing par from 93 feet off the green.
“Today I found a way to score and get the ball in the hole,” Furyk said. “Those up-and-downs were the difference between 65 and maybe a 68 or 69 today.”
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2. CLARK’S DREAM START: After a birdie at the first, Tim Clark had 48 yards to the flag for his second shot. He hit a “chippy lob” and knocked it in the hole for eagle.
“You dream of a start like that,” Clark said. “I thought it was going to be a little long at first, but it turned out to be perfect.”
The rest of the round wasn’t too shabby either. It almost included a hole-in-one. His tee shot from 205 yards at the 13th stopped within a foot of the hole. Clark fired the low round of the day, a bogey-free 64, to climb within three shots of Furyk.
Clark, who is seeking his second Tour title, has been getting in the hunt of late after a slow start to his season. He injured his left elbow and withdrew from the Sony Open. It required a cortisone shot. It was particularly frustrating for Clark since he was sidelined for much of 2011 after undergoing surgery to his right elbow. The combination of injury and his usually dependable iron game deserting him sent his World Ranking plummeting out of the top 100 (he’s No. 153 this week).
“You’ve got to buckle down and play through it,” he said of the injury, “and it’s just nice to finally see the results.”
He rediscovered his ball striking a few months ago. When asked if he had changed instructors, he said, “I’ve never had one, so no!” All credit to Clark for digging it out of the dirt. He did make a switch in caddies to Jay Haas Jr., beginning at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. So far, Clark has had a shot to win going into the final round in three of his last five starts.
“I probably haven’t handled (the pressure) the best those weeks,” he said. “But if you play great on this course, you can shoot a low score.”
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3. DURANT DOUBLE DIPS: Ever since Joe Durant turned 50 in April, he’s been catching grief when he plays the junior circuit.
“I get more crap when I come out here than I do out there,” he said. “They say, ‘What are you doing here, old man?”
Bouncing between the two tours, Durant has strung together five straight top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour and finished a season-best T-11 at the Tour’s Greenbrier Classic in his last start. What’s his secret to double dipping?
“I’m trying to enjoy it,” he said. “I finally said, the hell with it, I’m just going to go out there and play and not fret over a missed putt or a missed cut. I decided I’m 50 years old. It’s ridiculous to keep grinding and crying over this stuff.”
Durant also committed to using a left hand low putting technique about 3 months ago. What was he doing before then? “It was almost hole-to-hole, putt to putt,” he said.
Durant, who ranks 189th in strokes gained putting, is rolling the rock this week. In the third round, he canned a 22-footer at No. 10 and a 33-footer at 17 for birdies. So far, he’s No. 8 (+4.547) in strokes gained putting and that’s the biggest reason why he’s posted three straight rounds in the 60s. Durant carded five birdies against two bogeys for a 3-under 67 and improved to a share of fifth, 7 back heading into the final round.
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4. CANADIAN SUPPORT: A 3-putt bogey at the last from 9 feet may have dampened Graham DeLaet’s hopes of ending the 60-year drought by Canadians at the RBC Canadian Open, but he didn’t lose sight of the big picture.
“I’ve got 35 million people pulling for me so that’s pretty cool,” he said.
Pat Fletcher was the last Canadian to win his national championship, and after his playing days he was the head pro here at Royal Montreal Golf Club.
DeLaet settled for an even-par 70 and 54-hole total of 8-under 202. After a sluggish start, his round took off with a 20-foot eagle putt on No. 12.
“I had goose bumps and my hair was standing on end when the fans were screaming there,” he said.
Among the other Canadians to make the cut, Joel Dahmen, the leading money winner on PGA Tour Canada this season, tacked on a 68 for 4-under 206 and a share of 22nd place. Brad Fritsch shot a bogey-free 67 to improve to a tie for 28th with fellow Canadian David Hearn at 3 under. A stroke further back is amateur Taylor Pendrith (T-43) with Canada’s favorite son, Mike Weir (66th), pulling up the rear at 1 over.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Jamie Lovemark’s streak of 42 bogey-free holes ended when he yanked his tee shot into the water on 18. He enters the final round in fourth place after a 67 and is seeking his first top-25 finish this season. Lovemark made his Tour debut at the 2009 RBC Canadian Open. “It’s special to me and I’d love to win here,” he said … Second-round co-leader Tim Petrovic struggled on the second nine and shot 2-over 72 to drop to a share of fifth place entering the final round … Furyk has been safely aboard in regulation at a clip of 83 percent of the time through three rounds, which is best in the field … Final round tee times will be threesomes and begin at 8:05 a.m. with the last time scheduled for 10:05 due to the threat of inclement weather.