Snedeker and Kuchar Agree: Shootout Sunday at the Canadian Open

Hunter Mahan’s day began with a bang. Warming up on the range for the third round of the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey just outside of Toronto and with just twenty minutes or so to go before his tee time, the phone rang. His wife Kandi who was due to have their first baby in about three weeks had gone into labor. The doctor told Mahan that he probably had time to make it home to Dallas, and so he withdrew from the tournament on the spot and made a run for it. He had a two-shot lead, but it’s not every day one of your children comes into the world.

Matt Kuchar, who is two shots behind the new leader, Brandt Snedeker, summed up the whole of it: 

I really hope Kandi is okay and the baby is okay.  The birth of a child is a truly magical, special thing.  You may get it once in your lifetime.  It just doesn’t happen that often.

Hunter right now is playing some of the best golf in the world.  It kind of gives the rest of us a chance right now with him not in the field.  He was in the final group of the U.S. Open, final group of the British Open, and then the lead of this through two rounds.  I think we all fully expected him to just increase his lead and continue playing some really good golf.  I’d like to wish — make sure that Kandi and the family is doing well.  Got to look after family.  I think that’s the most important thing.

And so it is, as Mahan demonstrated without any hesitation.

In his stead, Brandt Snedeker smoked the course with a 9-under 63 to take a one-shot lead. And here’s something: everyone thought he made it look easy. But he confessed that he has the same sort of feelings the rest of us have:

No, it never feels easy.  You always feel like you’re exactly one swing away from hitting something off the planet or something like that.

I felt like I managed my game really well today.  I didn’t drive it particularly well on the back nine, which is a little frustrating.  But on the front nine I did some really good stuff, and the back nine was able to manage it around.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll put the ball in the fairway, make it a lot easier on myself, and should play pretty solid golf tomorrow.

Except Snedeker has a pretty high hurdle on Sunday. He knows from John Merrick’s 10-under, 62 on Friday that a low score is out there. And that in addition to his own 63 today, long-baller Dustin Johnson also shot 63 and is just three back:

Yeah, I’m going to have to shoot 4-, 5-, 6-under par to have a chance to win.  That’s just the way the golf course is playing.  It’s playing perfect.  It’s a lot of fun to play.  If you’re playing well, you’re going to make a lot of birdies; if you’re not, you’re going to struggle.

I think 18-, 19-, 20-under par is going to be the score to get to, and I’m going to try to get past that.  It’s one of those courses where you know you’ve got to make birdies.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it takes all of the decision making out of the day’s considerations:

It’s actually kind of a comforting feeling because you know you have to be aggressive all day long.

Glen Abbey provides for the possibility of an exciting ending because there are three par-5s on the back nine, 13, 16 and 18, and 17 can be a birdie hole

Yeah, [it’s exciting] because you’re never out of it.  You think back to all the great history that they’ve had here on the 18th hole and everything that’s happened between Tiger and Vijay and Mike and then the last time here with Nathan Green and Retief Goosen.  It’s a lot of fun to come down that last stretch knowing that anything can happen.  You’re never really out of it here until you walk off the 18th green.

So given that volatility, would he rather play with the lead or be a chaser:

Yeah, I’d much rather play with the lead than come from behind. Just because you have room to make a mistake.  If you come from behind you’ve got to play pretty much flawless golf, go out there and play perfect golf tomorrow.  Still going to have to play great golf and do everything, but I’d much rather have a two‑shot cushion going into tomorrow where if I don’t play my best I’ve still got a chance to win it.

And here’s a rarity, Snedeker’s had the same putter in his bag for years:

That’s been in there for seven years.  It’s been pretty good to me.

It’s a rarity because he has never switched it out for another putter and many Tour pros are very fickle:

Never, no.  It’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian.  As much as I try to blame that putter on not putting good, it’s always me, and it’s kind of nice to know that if something is going wrong, I can blame me, not the putter.  The putter has worked before, it’s going to work again.

As I pointed out in Friday’s post, hot prospect, David Lingmerth, a Swede who attended the University of Arkansas and now lives in Jacksonville Beach, played really well on Thursday shooting a 67. He faded a bit on Friday to 71, but he came right back on Saturday with a 65, good for 2nd by himself and placing him in the last group with Snedeker. And he is rested, having last played at the Greenbrier at the beginning of the month.

Matt Kuchar had a great round shooting 8-under after possibly shooting himself out of it with Friday’s 2-over, 74. Never say die:

I’ve been playing some good golf.  Yesterday I was disappointed.  I hit a lot of really good shots yesterday and stumbled in at 2‑over par, which was a bummer after starting at 6‑under.  I felt like I had a good position and a good setup for a great week.

Boy, it was nice to jump back and have some balls go in the hole today, shoot 8‑under par, I think, continue the good hitting of the golf ball and made some putts, and again, played the par‑5s well.  I really played the par‑5s well on Thursday and again today.

And he’s really looking forward to Sunday’s fireworks:

Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of birdies.  I think I’ll be within striking distance at least come Sunday.  So it’s a fun place to be, and I think tomorrow will be an exciting day.

With Saturday’s rain sufficient to cause an hour and twenty minute delay, the course is going to be a lot more scoreable; (1) the fairways won’t be as hard and fast and the players will be able to keep the ball from running into the rough, and, (2) the greens will be softer so they’ll be able to stick their approach shots.

Yeah, you’re going to see a lot of low scores.  You’re going to continue to see guys make a lot of birdies.  It’s going to be exciting.  If nobody gets too far in front, I think there’s going to be a lot of guys with a chance, which will make for an exciting Sunday.

So with that as the possibility for the day, what sort of expectations does he have?

Don’t want to have any.  Come out and try to make some birdies.

On your mark…get set…GO!!!

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