Hearn falls short as Aussie takes crown at Glen Abbey,

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - Dave Feschuk

For a long few mo­ments on Sun­day af­ter­noon, it looked as though it might all work out for David Hearn.

He came to the first tee of the fi­nal round of the RBC Cana­dian Open with a two-shot lead, and be­fore he’d hit his first shot he’d been show­ered in na­tion­al­is­tic love and ser­e­naded with O Canada.

And a pal­pa­ble buzz ran through the gal­leries at Glen Abbey when the elec­tronic scoreboards be­gan post­ing the news of his early work. Af­ter Hearn birdied both of the open­ing two holes — af­ter play­ing part­ner and world No. 3 Bubba Wat­son found him­self three shots back of the home-coun­try leader by the third tee — well, it all looked so promis­ing.

But it never re­ally got bet­ter than that for Hearn and his ador­ing com­pa­tri­ots on Sun­day. Those birdies that look like they would come in bushels? Over the next 16 holes, Hearn man­aged to make just one more of them, this against three bo­geys.

And in the end, it was Jason Day who seized Sun­day. A week ago, the Aus­tralian world No. 9 missed out on a play­off at the Open Cham­pi­onship by a stroke. At Glen Abbey, Day birdied the fi­nal three holes — the last the re­sult of a 22-foot birdie putt on the 18th green — to win the 106th edi­tion of the men’s na­tional open golf cham­pi­onship by a stroke over Wat­son, who birdied five of the last six holes.

If Hearn, who fin­ished third two strokes back, couldn’t be­come the first Cana­dian since 1954 to win the ti­tle — and his dream died when his bunker shot for the ea­gle on 18th came up short — at least Glen Abbey pro­duced a gen­tle­man of a cham­pion who charmed gal­leries as he wowed them all week.

“I’ve never felt so much at home,” Day said, “and I’m not even from Canada . . . It’s great to feel like a Cana­dian for a week.”

You got the sense, at some mo­ments on Sun­day, that Hearn wished he was in pos­ses­sion of a dif­fer­ent pass­port. That’s not to sug­gest he’s un­pa­tri­otic. But he did ac­knowl­edge that the weight of the crowd’s ado­ra­tion un­set­tled him. Cer­tainly it had un­set­tled Mike Weir back in 2004, when he missed mul­ti­ple putts to win. And as much as Hearn tried to use the col­lec­tive’s energy to push him for­ward, the truth is that with the tour­na­ment on the line, he re­gressed.

Af­ter mak­ing four bo­geys in the open­ing three rounds com­bined, Hearn made three bo­geys in Sun­day’s open­ing 12 holes. And more to the crux of his prob­lem: Af­ter putting like a wiz­ard for the tour­na­ment’s first three days, Hearn’s once-magic wand went dark on the fourth.

That, plain and sim­ple, is why he wasn’t hoist­ing the tro­phy at day’s end He had been the best put­ter in the field by far, gain­ing about three strokes a round on the field in the first 54 holes. But his work on Sun­day was ac­tu­ally be­low av­er­age.

How does a strength be­come a weak­ness? Hearn said nerves were “ob­vi­ously” a fac­tor. Then again, maybe he’d been play­ing a lit­tle over his head to be­gin with. This is a guy whose PGA Tour scor­ing av­er­age is a shade un­der 71. On Sun­day he shot 72.

So, re­ally, he was a lit­tle worse than he usu­ally is when he needed to be a lit­tle bet­ter.

“This one was pretty in­tense. I think ev­ery Cana­dian wants to see it so bad, and we want to do it so bad, it does make it hard,” Hearn said. “But at the same time, I be­lieve it will hap­pen . . .One of us will win it one day soon.”

Hearn cited the high level of Cana­dian tal­ent on the PGA Tour as a rea­son for op­ti­mism; on Sun­day fel­low PGA Tour player Adam Had­win shot a four-un­der round of 68 to get to 12-un­der par and tie for sev­enth.

Hearn, to his credit, never folded in dra­matic fash­ion. He kept grind­ing. Even though he missed eight of 14 fair­ways, and even though he wasn’t hit­ting the ball “crisply” as he opti- mally does, he still had a chance to make his mark down the stretch.

He got his lone back-nine birdie in dra­matic fash­ion on the par-five 13th hole. Af­ter miss­ing the fair­way and blast­ing a four-iron through the green, Hearn chun­ked the come­back chip. But he re­cov­ered to make an 18-foot birdie putt from the fringe to re­take a one-shot lead over Jim Furyk.

Still, at that point Hearn was even par for the day. He would end at even par for the day. By the end of it all, you had to scroll down the top 16 names on the leader­board to find another golfer who didn’t man­age to break par on Sun­day.

In other words, Hearn was beaten by bet­ter, longer, more ac­com­plished golfers. Both Day and Wat­son pro­duced shots that Hearn just couldn’t match. The Aus­tralian, for in­stance, hit a 386-yard drive on the par-four 17th to leave a 75-yard wedge that set up the 11-foot birdie putt he would make to get to 16un­der par. And Wat­son, for his part, hit his drive on the 17th 385 yards en route to his third of four con­sec­u­tive birdies. Hearn, mean­while, would drive it 323 yards into the left rough and leave him­self 40 feet for yet another birdie putt he couldn’t con­vert.

As Hearn sur­veyed the green­side bunker shot he needed to hole on No. 18 to force a play­off, a voice in the crowd loudly in­formed Hearn that all that was re­quired was “the bunker shot of your life.” Hearn turned and shrugged a lit­tle. He would give it his best. On Sun­day, that sim­ply wasn’t good enough.

“That’s what makes cham­pi­ons — hit­ting shots like (Day’s on the 18th) at the right mo­ment,” Hearn said. “I’ll do that one day.”

David Hearn birdied the first two holes Sun­day, but Jason Day and Bubba Wat­son made all the putts at the end.

CLIFF HAWKINS/GETTY IM­AGES

Jason Day made a 22-foot birdie putt on the fi­nal hole, just enough to hold off the hard-charg­ing Bubba Wat­son, who birdied five of his last six holes.

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