By Dave Kaplan
It has been over 60 years since a Canuck won the Canadian Open and, unfortunately, that streak did not come to an end on Sunday. However, several interesting storylines did emerge at historic Glen Abbey in Oakville over the course of the week.
For starters, Jhonattan Vegas became just the sixth champion in the history of the Canadian Open to successfully defend his title, defeating Charley Hoffman with a birdie on the first hole of a playoff.
It was Vegas’ third career PGA Tour victory and, just like last year, he got it done by getting off to a blistering start in his final round. In 2016, Vegas trailed by five shots heading into Sunday but closed the gap early with five consecutive birdies on his front nine. This year, the 32-year-old did not card five birdies in a row, but he did manage to still make five total on his front nine, including four birds in his first seven holes, to take a share of the lead and make the turn in 30.
The Venezuelan finished his round before Hoffman and watched with bated breath from the clubhouse as the American nearly sealed the tournament on the 72nd hole with a lengthy putt for eagle that just missed the cup. When the playoff commenced shortly afterwards, Vegas seized the moment and made his fourth birdie of the week on the 18th hole to make quick work of Hoffman.
It was a little bit of a surprise to see Vegas playing so well last week, considering he had missed five straight cuts — and seven of the last eight — leading up to the tournament. However, those recent woes were clearly not troubling the former Texas Longhorn, who potted a total of 27 birdies over the course of the week — not including his winning birdie putt in the playoff — to finish the week at 21-under par.
Also playing great last week — once again — was Ian Poulter, who is currently enjoying one heck of a bounce-back season after nearly losing his PGA Tour card earlier this year. The Englishman posted four straight rounds in the 60s and finished the week in solo third after carding the low round of the day — an 8-under 64! Poulter, who, earlier in the week, compared himself to marmite — in that you either hate him or love him — has really stepped up his game over the last few weeks. At the Open, the 41-year-old spent a majority of the week on the first page of the leaderboard before eventually falling into a tie for 14th on Sunday afternoon. His third place finish last week at the Abbey shows that the 12-time European Tour winner’s resurgence is not just a flash in the pan, but perhaps the start of his return to golf’s more elite ranks. After all, it was only seven years ago that Poulter was ranked 5th overall in the world.
Poulter wasn’t the only player who turned-back time in Oakville last week. Vijay Singh had his best finish of the year, placing in a tie for 14th overall at 15-under par. The 54-year-old has not triumphed on the PGA Tour since 2008, and actually seemed poised, after trailing 36-hole leader Martin Flores by only two shots at the end of play on Friday, to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history. Unfortunately, Singh struggled with his putter on Moving Day and fell out of contention after carding a 71. However, the Fijian, who turned professional 11 years before Jordan Spieth was born, finished the week strong with a 68 on Sunday and proved to the golfing world that he can still wallop players half his age.
In fact, with so many older players finishing atop the leaderboard last week, the Canadian Open offered a bit of a change-up from what we have seen in recent weeks on the PGA Tour.
This week, there were only six players aged 29 or younger that finished within the Top 25: Harold Varner III, C.T. Pan, Seung-Yul Noh, Kramer Hickok, Tony Finau and Brandon Hagy. Of these young guns, it was Hagy who made the biggest impression, challenging for contention throughout the week and finishing in a tie for fifth, one stroke ahead of Dustin Johnson. At 5’11 and only 175 pounds, you wouldn’t expect Hagy to be one of the longest drivers on the circuit. However, the 2014 Byron Nelson award winner has alternated with DJ and Luke List for the lead in driving distance throughout the season, and demonstrated with one booming drive after another at Glen Abbey that he is a name that you are going to want to remember going forwards.
Unfortunately, this year we didn’t have any Canadians that were truly in the hunt on Sunday. Mackenzie Hughes was presented with the Rivermead Challenge Cup, awarded annually to the Canadian who shoots the lowest four-round total, for firing a final round 68 and jumping into a tie for 32nd at 10-under par. In addition, Saskatchewan’s Graeme DeLaet started the week well, opening the tournament with back-to-back rounds of 68. However, the Saskatchewan native could not get it going on the weekend and posted rounds of 73 and 71 to fall into a tie for 48th overall. Aside from these two golfers, no other Canucks survived the cut at Glen Abbey.
Nonetheless, it was still a very entertaining week of golf with lots of twist and turns and an exciting finish at the end. Plus, with the exception of a brief rain delay on Thursday, the weather was actually good for a vast majority of the week! Let’s hope that it stays like this for the entire month of August so that we can all get plenty of golf in for the remainder of the summer!