Toronto Star

Hearn falls short as Aussie takes crown at Glen Abbey,

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