Fresh off the heels of a thrilling British Open finish, many of the world's top golfers are back in North America this week, participating in the 2013 RBC Canadian Open.
UPDATE: Sunday, July 28, at 7 p.m. ET by Jesse Reed
Brandt Snedeker cruised to victory on Sunday at the 2013 RBC Canadian Open, winning by three shots over four other golfers with a final score of 16-under par.
It was Snedeker's second victory on the season, as noted by the PGA Tour:
Heading into the final round, Snedeker nursed a one-stroke lead over PGA Tour rookie David Lingmerth. But while Lingmerth struggled with the difficult conditions on Sunday, Snedeker continued his steady play, shooting two-under par on the day.
Here's the final leaderboard, courtesy of PGATour.com:
It wasn't all sunshine and roses for the eventual winner.
Snedeker posted two bogeys on the round but countered with four birdies, including this gem on No. 16 to increase his lead and essentially seal his victory.
After winning two tournaments last year, winning the 2012 FedEx Cup and now winning his second tournament of 2013, it's clear that Snedeker has risen into the ranks of golf's elite.
His combination of solid driving, excellent shot-making and brilliant touch around the greens makes him a contender in any tournament, and it shouldn't be long until he wins a major championship.
Rory Sabbatini put together the best round on Sunday, posting a score of five-under par, which was all the more impressive, given the windy conditions, as noted by Peter Robinson:
Even more impressive was the fact that Sabbatini was able to bounce back from what could have been a devastating double-bogey on No. 2 to post six birdies in his final 13 holes.
Sabbatini wasn't the only one who tore up the course on Sunday, either.
William McGirt, who had only two top-25 finishes this year before this weekend, posted a four-under-par round of 68 to move up into a four-way tie for second place. He had only one blemish on his final-round scorecard—a bogey on No. 14—to go along with five birdies.
His excellent showing on Sunday helped him earn a boatload of cash and move up in the FedEx Cup rankings significantly, as noted by Wofford Athletics:
The shot of the day went to Mark Wilson, who holed out his approach shot on No. 9 from deep in the rough, 159 yards away from the pin.
This shot likely saved Wilson's round. He had just gotten through a four-hole stretch in which he scored three bogeys, but his eagle helped turn things around and he finished in a tie for sixth place at 12-under par.
UPDATE: Saturday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant
Brandt Snedeker will take a lead into Sunday and had a chance to break a course record during the third round of the 2013 RBC Canadian Open, but he was hardly the biggest story to emerge at Glen Abbey on Saturday.
Hunter Mahan had a two-day lead at the PGA Tour event before Round 3 began, but he did not get a chance to defend that lead.
In short, life happened.
Mahan's wife Kandi, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, went into labor before Mahan could hit the course on Saturday. In a move that all fathers everywhere will admire, Mahan withdrew from the final two days of action this weekend and went to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
Golf Digest had this pair of tweets as the Mahan story started to unfold:
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel chimed in to give his opinion on Mahan's choice to choose be a father over his job (Hint: Sobel thinks it's the right choice):
Mahan was sitting at 13-under after two rounds of the Canadian Open. Snedeker now has the tournament lead at 14-under, and was two birdies shy on the final two holes of breaking the course record of 62.
Snedeker finished with a nine-under 63, and will look to win his second tournament of the 2013 PGA Tour season on Sunday. With David Lingmerth, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson nipping closely at his heels, Snedeker will have to play his best golf of the season to accomplish that feat.
He certainly appeared to be in top form on Saturday.
Getting off to a hot start by birdieing the first hole, Snedeker did most of his damage on the front nine. He birdied six of his first nine holes of the day, and increased that figure to 7-of-11 with another birdie on No. 11:
With nine birdies through 16 holes, Snedeker was knocking on the door of the course record (62). Although he had chances to complete the task with birdie putts on both No. 17 and No. 18, he would turn in his scorecard one stroke shy of Glen Abbey history.
Lingmerth and Johnson both had themselves a day on Saturday.
A PGA Tour rookie, Lingmerth has three top-10 finishes during his inaugural campaign and finished tied for 17th at the U.S. Open. With a score of seven-under, he quietly finished just one stroke behind the leader.
PGA Tour on Twitter had this post as Lingmerth eagled No. 18 to finish his day:
Speaking of eagles, Johnson equaled what Lingmerth did earlier in the day.
Johnson's final putt on Saturday gave him a share of the lead before Snedeker and others on the course had finished, but no one can take away the nine-under score he posted in the process. According to ESPN's Justin Ray, it's Johnson's lowest Round 3 score ever:
Matt Kuchar's Jekyll and Hyde tournament continued on Saturday. After shooting a 66 on Thursday and following it up with a 74 on Friday, Kuchar was back in golf's good graces with a score just two strokes off the tournament record.
With Mahan out of the picture, John Merrick was technically the leader when the third round began on Saturday. Merrick, who tied the course record and was two shots back of Mahan at the end of the second day, might have been the golfer affected the most by Mahan's decision to withdraw.
Since he was scheduled to play Saturday's round with the Round 2 leader, Merrick instead had to play solo after the news on his partner came down. As noted by Steve Elling, the entire experience must have been surreal:
Merrick had an up-and-down third round, but managed to shoot at even-par 72 to stay in the mix for the tournament trophy. At one point he was four-over for the round, but shots like this on No. 6 helped Merrick keep pace with the leaders:
It's anything but a one-horse race in Ontario before Sunday's final round begins. The low scores we've seen through three days of action lend to the idea that it's still anyone's tournament. Sunday's final round should be an exciting end to what's been a furious three days of action in Canada.
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UPDATE: Friday, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. ET by Ethan Grant
Brendan Steele's time at the top of the Canadian Open leaderboard was short-lived.
Hunter Mahan will enter the weekend at Glen Abbey as the tournament leader. Mahan, who is coming off an impressive top-10 finish at the British Open, shot an eight-under 64 to take the two-day lead heading into Round 3.
John Merrick (-11) sits alone in second place, and Bubba Watson (-9) followed up on his first-round 68 with a five-under 65. Patrick Reed and Aaron Baddeley (-8) are tied for fourth, while Tommy Gainey, James Hahn and Chris Kirk (-7) are tied for sixth.
Charley Hoffman headlines a host of golfers at six-under. Here's a look at the top of the RBC Canadian Open leaderboard, courtesy of PGATour.com.
The projected cut for the field is one-under par.
Not all of golf's biggest names are in attendance, but several noticeable stars are hovering in the middle of the pack beneath the current leaders.
Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker are eight strokes back after posting solid rounds on Friday. Snedeker, who finished just outside the top 10 at the British Open, had a hard time figuring out the course but still managed to post a solid score of three-under.
He got in trouble on the par-four 17th, but managed to hit a nice shot out of the sand to leave himself a birdie putt. He made that birdie and another on No. 18 to enter the clubhouse with an outside chance to contend this weekend.
Elsewhere, Dustin Johnson survived the one-under cut by one stroke, but Luke Donald wasn't so lucky. Donald, who also missed the cut at Muirfield, didn't do enough to break par and will be going home early for the second straight week.
Ricky Barnes, Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Garrigus and Graham DeLaet were other notable names that will not be playing this weekend in Ontario.
In retrospect, Mahan was on point in all phases of his game. He did not record a bogey to his eight birdies and reached the green in regulation over 77 percent of the time during the round.
At No. 11, Mahan was particularly impressive.
Merrick also had an impressive round on Friday. The 31-year-old won his first PGA Tour event at the Northern Trust Open in February, and he tied a course record by shooting a 10-under 62 in Round 2.
The Golf Channel had this post on Twitter to chronicle Merrick's record day:
Through two days of action, Glen Abbey has been feast or famine for several golfers in the field. Steele was on the famine side of that result on Friday, shooting a three-over 75 to drop from the lead all the way to tied for 26th.
Matt Kuchar, who got off to a great start in Canada with an opening round of 66, also struggled during the second round. Kuchar was unable to captain the course on Friday as he did on Thursday, shooting a two-over to post a two-day score of four-under.
Graeme McDowell would also finish at four-under. McDowell was in danger of missing the cut after posting a 76 on Thursday, but responded with the third-lowest score of the day to stay well above the cut line. Only Mahan, Merrick and Gainey had a better second round than McDowell.
PGA Tour Media had this tweet about his second round:
From a local standpoint, Canada's David Hearn will be playing on Saturday and Sunday. Although he failed to stay under par in consecutive rounds, Hearn's two-day score of one-under was enough to make the cut.
At one point, Hearn appeared destined to miss the cut. He bogeyed three consecutive holes on the back nine, but responded with birdies at No.'s 16, 17 and 18 to give Canada four chances (Mike Weir, Roger Sloan and Brad Fritsch are the others) to win the tournament.
The tournament's Twitter account had a second look at Hearn's final Friday birdie on Twitter:
Mahan will carry the weight of leading after two rounds when Saturday's action begins, but it's really anyone's tournament right now. More than one golfer's two-day scores show a stark contrast, so there's no way to tell what Round 3 will bring.
---End of Update---
It was a virtual unknown who shocked the field and stands alone atop the leaderboard through the first 18 holes.
Brendan Steele, the 30-year-old pro with just one PGA Tour win to his name, carded an excellent seven-under score of 65 to take a one-stroke lead. Playing early in the morning, Steele took advantage of the relatively easy course conditions with eight birdies against just one bogey to grab the clubhouse lead—one that he kept throughout the day.
He will walk into Friday's second round at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Ontario with a one-stroke lead over a trio of golfers. Matt Kuchar, Scott Brown and Scott Gardiner carded solid six-under scores of 66, as a preponderance of the field spent their day carding under-par rounds.
Behind the four leaders are two five-under scorers in David Lingmerth and Hunter Mahan, along with a gaggle of talent at four-under. Here is a look at all the golfers within three strokes of the leader:
Go to PGATour.com for the rest of the board.
While not expected to play a factor whatsoever this week—he's missed eight cuts this year, including a stretch of eight straight—Steele looked right at home on the par-72 course. Starting off in the morning wave on hole No. 10, he opened with a solid par before carding his first under-par score on the par-four 11th.
He struggled a bit at first with his driving accuracy. He was unable to keep his momentum after the first birdie at No. 11, giving away a good chance for an under-par score on the par-five 13th and keeping things relatively on the straight and narrow.
That is until a birdie on the par-three 15th sparked a torrid run that serves as the impetus for his lead. Steele carded six birdies over his next nine holes to push himself to the front of the leaderboard at seven-under and then knocked down another bird at No. 7 to get as high as eight-under. A bogey on the par-four ninth had to leave a sour taste in his mouth heading into the clubhouse, but he's still in an excellent position heading into Friday.
Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel noted how the Canadian golfers in the field compare to Steele, who spent two years on the Canadian Tour:
Nonetheless, Steele should have his work cut out of him to keep his lead.
In a field where the biggest names are scattered on top of the leaderboard, Kuchar is just one stroke off. The prohibitive favorite heading into this week's event—Kuchar is the highest-ranked player in the field—the world's sixth-ranked golfer played every bit of the part on Thursday.
The 35-year-old American, coming off a tie for 15th at Muirfield, took an early lead over playing partners Brandt Snedeker (-2) and Bubba Watson (-4).
Starting out on the back nine, Kuchar kept himself in contention despite spraying drives all over the place. He hit a paltry 35.7 percent of his shots in the fairway in Round 1, often relying on his irons to make up for errant performances off the tee.
Luckily, his iron game was on point. He ate up the three par-fives on the back nine, going four-under on those holes, including a stellar eagle on the 18th. Including a birdie on the second hole, he was five-under on par-five holes. He was able to atone for his mistakes off the tee by putting himself in good position for two-putts and simple saves.
After going through his first nine holes, Kuchar's mediocrity off the tee eventually caught up with him, and he finished at six-under. As he finished up his round, the PGA Tour's Twitter feed—apropos of nothing other than entertainment—shared this picture of him for #ThrowbackThursday:
Testing his hand-eye coordination, I guess?
Kuchar is joined by the two Scotts, Brown and Gardiner, with scores of 66. Brown carded the only bogey-less round of players inside the top five, steadily knocking drives into the fairway and hitting solid approaches to set up his six birdies.
The 30-year-old South Carolina Aiken grad has one win on the PGA Tour, which came earlier this year at the Puerto Rican Open. That victory gave him back his tour card, which had been on conditional status after a poor 2012.
Gardiner, playing in his first full PGA Tour slate, is a heck of a story even if he doesn't walk away with the win. The first golfer of Aboriginal descent to earn his card, the 37-year-old Aussie has missed 15 cuts already this season and stands in danger of not continuing his ascent after this season. However, if he continues showing the penchant for excellence he did on Thursday, he might find himself in contention going into the weekend.
Tilghman of the Golf Channel wanted to start a new hashtag after Gardiner carded six straight birdies from holes No. 2 through No. 7:
Other notables in the field include Ernie Els (-1) and Charl Schwartzel (+1), both of whom will have some work to do to catch the field.
Of the major takeaways from Day 1, the trio atop the leaderboard should feel lucky to have gotten its opening round out of the way in the morning. Much as it did last week at Muirfield, course conditions got rougher as the afternoon went along. While Glen Abbey didn't have the swirling winds and brown grass of its Scottish counterpart, the course did harden and cause slightly higher scores as temperatures rose.
The RBC Canadian Open comes with a total purse of $5.6 million. Scott Piercy won the event in 2012 and is one-under through the first round, in a tie for 41st place.
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