ANCASTER, Ont. - A win and a fat cheque may have sweetened Scott Piercy’s view of the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, but some fans weren’t buying it.
“Booooring,” came the jeers as the newly minted 2012 RBC Canadian Open champion marched onto the 18th green to receive his trophy after finishing with a three-under 67 on Sunday to capture the title by one shot over William McGirt (69) and Robert Garrigus (70).
Officials quickly shushed the rogue fans, who were merely quoting Piercy himself. He told reporters earlier in the tournament that the classically designed course created “boring golf.”
If Piercy wasn’t the fan favourite, well, it wasn’t really a fair fight. The tournament had come down to a three-way race between himself and two affable guys from the American south who just may be two of the most likable on the PGA Tour.
There was the second-place finisher, Garrigus, who had been winning hearts all week with his penchant for thanking volunteers and calling fellow competitors “dude.” On Sunday, while McGirt was finishing his putt on the first hole, Garrigus snuck off behind the second tee to pet a bulldog named Millie.
Then there was soft-spoken McGirt, a stocky 33-year-old who happens to enjoy playing while chewing a wad of tobacco. A victory at Hamilton would have been his first PGA Tour win since joining the circuit in 2011.
“Boring” is the last word he’d use to describe the course, McGirt said. “You have to think a lot out here and you’ve got to hit a lot of good shots.”
What made it more fun was getting to share the day with his buddy, Garrigus, who kept him laughing throughout the round, even as each faltered in the final stretch.
Garrigus, in particular, couldn’t catch a break all day. After a bogey-free round on Saturday gave him a one-shot lead, he made 13 straight pars on Sunday before finally making a birdie. He threw up his hands and gave an exaggerated fist pump, as if he could hardly believe it himself.
“I should’ve won this golf tournament by seven shots, and everybody knows that – if I could’ve just made a putt today,” he said after giving Piercy a congratulatory hug.
“It was unfortunate that I didn’t win, but what the hell.”
A three-putt bogey at the 16th hole dropped Garrigus from the lead, while McGirt missed a chance to force a playoff on the final hole.
Only five of the 23 Canadians who started the tournament made the cut. Graham DeLaet, the top Canadian finisher with a tie for 56th, shrugged off the honour as a “consolation prize.”
“We come in here with expectations other than just trying to beat the Canadians,” said the 30-year-old native of Weyburn, Sask.
Toronto’s Albin Choi, 20, who heads back to North Carolina State University in the fall, was the only amateur to make the cut. His buddies cheered him on and made sure none of his success went to his head. “Sign my water bottle,” one joked.
This was the second PGA Tour win for Piercy. It came with a cheque of $930,000 (all currency U.S.) and other perks, including a berth in next year’s Masters. McGirt and Garrigus, who tied for second, each earned $457,000.
As for the “boring” comment, Piercy said he hoped nobody took it the wrong way.
“I usually hit the ball pretty far with the driver,” he said. “I like to hit the driver a lot, and this golf course I felt took the driver out of my hands. I did say, however, that at the end of the week if the score is good, it is exciting. So I’m pretty excited.”
With a report from Beverley Smith
RECORD DAYS: With rain-softened Hamilton Golf and Country Club defenceless against PGA Tour players, course and tournament scoring records fell. Winner Scott Piercy set a new course record with a 62 in the opening round. The American’s mark was equalled by South African Tim Clark the next day. Robert Garrigus, the leader after three rounds, had taken just 194 strokes through 54 holes, setting a tournament record. Arnold Palmer set the former mark of 195 in 1955 before going on to win the first of his 62 career PGA Tour titles and Dean Wilson equalled it two years ago. “Oops,” Garrigus said. “Sorry Arnie.” Piercy’s winning score of 263 tied the tournament record, established by Johnny Palmer in 1952.
GOING LOW: Eight players shot 63 during the four rounds of the Canadian Open, setting a season high on the PGA Tour. The 63 Club consisted of Scott Piercy, Bud Cauley, Retief Goosen, Brian Harman, Chris Kirk, William McGirt, Garth Mulroy, Greg Owen and Scott Stallings. The previous season high for 63s was set at the Humana Challenge, at which seven rounds of 63 were recorded.
STAR SEARCH: The Canadian Open field this year was considered among the best in recent memory, with six players ranked in the top 25 (as of last Monday) of the world. But the stars never came out at Hamilton. The top finishers among the six were No. 9 Matt Kuchar and No. 24 Brandt Snedeker, who shared 34th place but were finished and headed home long before the leading groups made the turn for the back nine. No. 13 Hunter Mahan and No. 22 Charl Schwartzel didn’t crack the top 40. Ernie Els, No. 15 and coming off his Open triumph, missed the cut and No. 5 Webb Simpson never made it to the first tee. He withdrew to stay home with his wife, who gave birth to the couple’s second child (a daughter named Willow Grace) on Saturday. Simpson has also pulled out of the Bridgestone Invitational this week.
CHARL BACK IN CHARGE: Charl Schwartzel reported that his abdominal tear has healed and he’s starting to find his form again. The South African, whose last PGA Tour victory came at the 2011 Masters, missed a month of the summer after tearing a ligament on the right side of his abdomen. (He’s not sure how he did it.) He returned at the Open Championship and missed the cut, but said he was swinging better in Canada – more like he did earlier in the year when he posted two top-10 finishes. “I sort of got the feelings I had before I got the injury and I started to get excited,” he said. “I’m definitely starting to hit the ball good again.” Schwartzel made the cut at Hamilton and finished at four under.
THIS BUD'S FOR YOU: PGA Tour rookie Bud Cauley passed the $1-million (U.S.) mark in season earnings on Sunday after posting his second consecutive top-four finish. The 22-year-old American, who played his way on to the Tour last year without going through qualifying school, moved up three spots on the leader board Sunday at Hamilton to equal his finish the week before at the True South Classic in Madison, Miss. He has another fourth-place finish this season (at the Arnold Palmer Invitational) and one other top-10 result in 21 starts. With his performance at Hamilton, which featured the lowest 18-hole score of his professional career (a 63 in the second round), he locked up his playing card for 2013 and moved to a projected No. 47 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Jeff Brooke contributed to this report