5 Things: Late birdies cinch Canadian for Clark
L'ILE-BLIZARD, Quebec – After adjusting final-round tee times of the RBC Canadian to avoid inclement weather, play was suspended twice at Royal Montreal Golf Club before the biggest storm of all hit. South African Tim Clark poured in five birdies over a seven-hole stretch of the final nine to overtake 54-hole leader Jim Furyk. Clark holed a testy 6-foot par putt on the final hole to clinch a one-stroke victory.
“It was huge for me to get it finished right there,” Clark said. “I just got hot with the putter on that back nine, obviously, and to stand over that putt and still feel confident was very nice.”
It was jubilation for Clark, who shot a final round 5-under 65 for a 72-hole total of 17-under 263, his first title since the 2010 Players Championship. For Furyk, who closed in 69, it was more final round heartache. He’s now winless in his last seven attempts with the 54-hole lead or co-lead.
“I left the door open with even par on the front and not making any putts, and Tim took advantage and shot 30 on the back,” Furyk said.
Here are 5 Things to know from the final round of the RBC Canadian Open.
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1. CLARK COMES FULL CIRCLE: In 1998, Clark, a newly-minted North Carolina State graduate and winner of the U.S. Amateur Public Links, turned pro and received a few starts on what is now called PGA Tour Canada.
“I was of the age you couldn’t rent a car,” Clark said. “I know the first tournament I took a bus somewhere and then I just sort of latched on to a few South African players that were over here playing and somehow made it around unscathed.”
Clark notched the first two professional victories of his career that summer at the New Brunswick Open and Canadian PGA Championship.
“It was a fun two weeks and definitely springboarded me and gave me the confidence that professional golf was something I could do,” he said. “To come back here, yeah, full circle, that’s 16 years ago when I was cutting my teeth … I have fond memories.”
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2. FURYK FALTERS: After claiming the third-round lead, Jim Furyk discussed his failures to close out his last six 54-hole leads. “Sometimes I just got outplayed,” he said. “Other times I felt like I got in my own way.”
This one he likely will remember as somewhere in between.
Furyk can hold his head high after shooting a 1-under 69, but he also recognized that he had chances to pull away early in the round and couldn’t convert on the greens. One day after the putts all seemed to fall in the hole center-cut, he burned edges and lipped out on several occasions. The Clark charge began with a 24-foot birdie putt at 11. Then he capitalized on Furyk’s failure to get up and down for birdie at the par-5 12th. Meanwhile, Clark wedged to 6 feet and made the putt to trim Furyk’s lead to one stroke.
“The one I really think about was 14,” Furyk said of his 9-footer for birdie. “I hit a perfect putt that didn’t go.”
To make matters worse, Clark then stepped up and converted from 6 feet and Furyk’s lead was gone. Clark jumped in front with a 10-foot birdie putt at 15 after a short weather delay. Suddenly, Furyk went from the hunted to the hunter. He stuck his tee shot at 17 to 4 feet, but Clark curled in a 15-foot birdie putt first. So Clark led by one going to the final hole. Furyk had one more chance, knocking his approach to 15 feet, but his putt never scared the hole.
“I’m definitely disappointed not to get over the hump,” Furyk said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve won and it stings to finish second again.”
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3. HICKS IS NO HARE: Justin Hicks said he just kept hitting fairways (13 of 14 in the final round) and greens (17 of 18) and threw in a few putts to equal his career-low round on Tour with a 6-under 64. It helped him finish a career-best third.
Hicks, 39, compared his career arc to the fabled “The Tortoise and the Hare,” noting that it has always taken him a while to establish himself at each level as a pro.
“Whenever I want to try and make it happen, it seems like that doesn’t work so I’m trying to enjoy the experience,” he said. “The reality is I’m not the hare. It’s not who I am. I get there but it just takes a while.”
Hicks, who turned pro in 1997, finally made the Tour in 2011, but returned to the Web.com Tour the following year. He improved 23 spots in the FedEx Cup standings this week to No. 57 in what is amounting to a breakout year.
Hicks, who led the field in proximity to hole (23 feet, 4 inches), toured the front nine in 31. He made his lone hiccup at the par-3 13th but bounced back with three birdies over the final four holes.
“There’s something about this course that kind of sets up to my eye a little bit,” he said, noting that a new putter he found during his off week keyed a strong performance on the greens.
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4. OH-FOR-60: Oh, Canada, how the fans north of the border long for a homegrown winner at its national championship. The drought has reached 60 years since Pat Fletcher won the title in 1954. Graham DeLaet fired a final round 2-under 68 for a share of seventh place at 10-under 270 to earn the Rivermead Cup, given annually to the low Canadian finisher.
“Going into the weekend I wanted to try to win the tournament, but it was a strong field of Canadians here this week, and I’m proud to be the low guy,” DeLaet said.
DeLaet was joined in the top 10 by Brad Fritsch (T-9), who played his final 39 holes bogey-free. Taylor Pendrith (T-43) from Kent State garnered low-amateur honors. David Hearn, Adam Hadwin and Joel Dahmen, the PGA Tour Canada Order of Merit leader, shared 53rd place at 2-under 278. Dahmen made his Tour debut. Mike Weir never could get his putter going and finished T-66 at 2-over 282.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Tim Clark led the field in scrambling (18 of 20), driving accuracy (84 percent), and tied for first in sand saves (7 for 7). … Kevin Kisner led the field in strokes gained putting (9.592), which was more than three strokes better than Clark, who finished second at (6.485). Clark entered the week ranked No. 122 (-0.112) for the season. … Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano finished in a tie for fourth with Michael Putnam and Matt Kuchar, and recorded his first top-10 finish of the season. … Kuchar posted a 5-under 65 in the final round to secure his third top-four finish in eight RBC Canadian Open appearances. … Dicky Pride matched the course-record with a final-round 63, which also equaled his career low. He shared seventh at 10-under 270 and recorded his first top-10 finish since the 2013 Barracuda Championship. "I had to get my course record back," Pride said. "In '01 I had the course record for a day and then (Scott) Verplank and (David) Morland (IV) beat me the next day so to tie them, to go back and get it, I'm pretty happy about that."