When Jim Furyk tees off in the final round of the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday, it will be exactly 1,400 days since his last PGA Tour victory. The 44-year-old is in position to end that almost four year drought after posting a 5-under 65 in the third round Saturday at Royal Montreal.
Furyk had it in cruise control for most of the day, posting a bogey-free round of 65 to give him a three stroke advantage over Tim Clark. Through 54 holes, Furyk has just one bogey - that coming back on the fourth hole of the first round Thursday.
"The first couple of days I struck the ball really well and never had myself in too much trouble," he said. "Today I found a way to score and get the ball in the hole."
Clark was one of the reasons why Furyk was not able to put even more distance between himself and the rest of the field. The South African posted the round of the day, a bogey-free 6-under 64, to sit just two off the pace.
Clark had a birdie on No. 1 before holing out from the fairway on the par-4 second hole for an eagle to jump start his round. He would chip in three more birdies on the back nine to come within a shot of the course record which was equalled by Furyk and Canada's Graham DeLaet on Friday.
"You dream of a start like that, and after that I continued to play some pretty solid golf," said Clark, who has just one bogey over his last six rounds of golf going back to the John Deere Classic. "I was struggling a little bit with my ball striking at the start of the year, then I found it a few months ago ...and now finally the putts are starting to go."
While Clark has just one career victory on the PGA Tour, he does share something in common with Furyk - both have won twice on Canadian soil. Clark was a two-time winner on PGA Tour Canada back in 1998 while Furyk is a two-time winner of the Canadian Open.
Kyle Stanley, who was one stroke off the lead after Thursday's opening round, sits five off the pace after a round of 68 while Jamie Lovemark is all alone in fourth place, four back after a round of 67.
Graham DeLaet's hopes of ending Canada's 60-year championship drought took a bit of hit on Saturday. The Weyburn, Sask. golfer battled through a scrappy round in which he fought hard to try and keep the leaders within reach. Through 14 holes he was within five strokes of the lead but stumbled down the stretch with bogeys at No. 15 and a three putt bogey on the final hole for a round of even par 70. That leaves him tied for fifth at 8-under par, seven shots behind the leader.
"Disappointing to three-putt the last. I really wanted to make that birdie and got over-aggressive. But it was a fun day," he said.
While acknowledging that Furyk was in control, he was not about to count himself out especially with the strong home crowd support he's received this week.
"I'm just going to give it my best. I've got 35-million people pulling for me, so that's pretty cool."
TWO WEEK BLUR
After turning pro in 1998, Tim Clark cut his teeth on the Canadian Tour long before it became PGA Tour Canada. The South African remembered a two-week stretch during that time when he won back-to-back tournaments.
"Just coming out of college and I was doing a lot of mini Tour stuff and just burning through money, not making cuts, and I was fortunate enough that I was given a few starts up here in Canada," he recalled. "I won the New Brunswick Open to get me into the Canadian PGA. Funny enough I never saw either course. I didn't play one practice round for those two weeks, one due to weather, one due to celebrating the week before.
"It was a fun two weeks."
Due to the threat of inclement weather on Sunday, the PGA Tour has alreday made the decision to send players off in groups of three from both the 1st and 10th holes starting at 8 am et, hoping to avoid the worst of the bad weather. Environment Canada is forecasting an 80-per-cent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Sunday.
MIXING HOCKEY WITH GOLF
Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban was a notable observer at Royal Montreal on Saturday. While he was there for a promotional event related to the Canadian Open, it was hockey that was the hot topic of conversation when the media caught up with him.
Subban, a restricted free-agent, is scheduled to go to arbitration on Friday unless he can ink a new deal with the club before then. But no matter how often he was asked, he refused to shed any light on how negotiations were going.
"It's been kept pretty quiet the whole time and it's going to remain that way until a deal's done," he said. "As of right now, I'm just trying to enjoy the day and not think of anything."
As for who he's pulling for this weekend, Subban's answer may surprise you.
"My favourite now is Graeme McDowell. I hope he picks it up here and pulls out a win for me," he explained. It should be noted that the two sports stars are also both sponsored by RBC.
Taylor Pendrith rebounded from a poor showing in Friday's second round with a 2-under 68 on Saturday. Despite failing to hit a single fairway on his opening nine holes, the No. 18th ranked amateur in the world escaped with eight pars and a single bogey on No. 9. He quickly rebounded on the back nine, starting with three consecutive birdies and five over his next eight holes until a double bogey six on the final hole.
Despite his struggles Friday, the Richmond Hill, Ont. golfer said he was enjoying every minute of his first PGA Tour experience.
"It's been awesome. Just to be out here is sweet, to play good and make the cut just feels good," said Pendrith, only the sixth amateur to make the cut in the last 10 Canadian Open championships. "Just a couple of swings I'd take back but other than that, I'm playing solid."
HE SAID IT
"It's nice to be noticed walking up to tee boxes and greens. You never get the 'who is this guy' type of thing." -- Ottawa's Brad Fritsch on this being as close to a 'home' game for him as it gets with a number of friends and officials who have come out to support him this week along with all the Canadian golf fans. He carded a 3-under 67 on Saturday.
HE SAID IT TOO
"It's kind of one of those weeks that I seemed to be picking the wrong club at the wrong time or the gust to hit at the wrong time. Just no momentum. But that's golf sometimes." -- Mike Weir, who said he just couldn't get anything going after shooting a 1-over 71.
Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report