Canadian Open won by Vegas
The people trying to save Glen Abbey Golf Club from being turned into a housing development should hit Jhonattan Vegas up for a donation.
A year after shooting 64 on Sunday to win the RBC Canadian Open, the 32-year-old Venezuelan fired a final-round 65 to jump to the top of the leaderboard, where he won with a playoff birdie over third-round leader Charley Hoffman.
“I’m going to be one of the biggest voices to try to keep this course open,” Vegas said with a smile after his round. “Especially if I keep winning here.”
Vegas, one of the longest drivers on tour, came to Canada having missed five straight cuts, but Glen Abbey proved to be just the tonic for his struggling game. His final round on a course that was soft and relatively forgiving included three drives of more than 359 yards, including a 388-yard bomb the first time he played the 18th hole, in regulation.
“It’s magic, to be honest,” Vegas said after he escaped the playoff with a birdie despite a drive into a fairway bunker on the par-5 18th hole. His second shot, an eight-iron out of the bunker, thumped the rough collar of the sand trap but still carried more than 200 yards over the pond and landed on the green, before rolling off the back. It missed hitting the lip of the bunker and staying in the trap by about an inch.
Instead, Vegas chipped his third shot to inches from the hole and tapped in.
“I knew I had to stay aggressive,” Vegas said of the neardisaster out of the bunker on the famed 18th. “I knew I could pull off the shot. A little lucky, to be honest,” he said. “Sometimes you need that to win.”
Hoffman, who shot a fourunder 68, including a closing birdie, to get into the playoff at 21-under with Vegas, couldn’t repeat the trick. He didn’t have a shot at the green after a drive into the right bunkers, put a wedge into the back bunker and couldn’t hole out from the trap.
For the second year in a row, the win belonged to Vegas, who had only four bogeys all week. It was the first time he finished in the top 10 since February and only the second time he had done so since he won here last year. Vegas will be back in 2018 to defend his title, and then he might want to chain himself to a tree. Glen Abbey’s future beyond next year remains uncertain.
From the moment play began on Thursday in the 108th hosting of Canada’s men’s national open, it felt like the winner would be a masher of the golf ball. Glen Abbey, hosting the tournament for a 29th time, can cause some trouble when it is playing hard and fast, but weeks of wet conditions had left it soft. When a steady rain fell through much of the opening round, capped off with a thunderstorm, that clinched it: The damp conditions would allow big hitters to bomb away with the driver without fear that their balls would skitter through the short grass and into the rough.
This meant, in turn, that length would be a tremendous advantage off the tee. For someone like two-time RBC Canadian Open winner Jim Furyk, 200th in average driving distance on the PGA Tour, who played the opening two rounds with Dustin Johnson and Vegas, it meant routinely watching his playing partners walk 50 yards past him to their balls.
It also meant that a stroll down the driving range late on Sunday, with the players in the final groups warming up, was to witness moon shot after moon shot: Brandon Hagy, Gary Woodland, Robert Garrigus, Vegas, all guys among the top quarter of PGA Tour regulars in the power stats. (There was also Seamus Power, but he teed off a bit earlier on Sunday.)
Ian Poulter ended up being the lone bunter among those on the final leaderboard. The Englishman, playing in his first Canadian Open and not a power hitter, flashed a deadly putter, with eight birdies on Sunday to climb to third place at 20-under.
Aside from the normal storylines of winners and losers, this particular tournament also had a separate story arc: how many times would it come back to Glen Abbey, and would the Canadian Open ever move to a spot in the golf calendar that would allow it to draw more of a top-heavy field.
Over the course of the week, some answers were provided. Golf Canada committed to coming back to Oakville for 2018, but also confirmed it is working toward building a new permanent home for the tournament somewhere in the Toronto area, supported by some partners and sponsors with large pockets.
Golf Canada chief executive Laurence Applebaum also said the tournament is among those that could possibly move to a different date as the PGA Tour shuffles its schedule in the coming years to push the FedEx Cup out of September and into August. If the Canadian Open does manage to move out of the shadow of the British Open and into a more favourable date, it could change the conversation on a tournament that for years now has struggled to avoid feeling like a lower-tier event, even as big a deal as it is in Canada.
Until then, what it tends to produce is what it did at Glen Abbey this week: a leaderboard with more than a few unfamiliar names, but some Sunday fireworks that ultimately made for a fine show.
Jhonattan Vegas holds his trophy after his win at the RBC Canadian Open in Oakville on Sunday.