HAMILTON, Ont. — As it turns out, there is nothing boring about a victory at golf’s third-oldest championship.
Or a cheque for US$936,000.
Or a trip to the Masters.
Scott Piercy learned to love Hamilton Golf and Country Club just a little bit more Sunday while pulling off a comeback victory at the RBC Canadian Open. The man who entered the weekend bemoaning the “boring golf” he was forced to play on a classic layout ended up being all smiles when the trophy was presented.
“At the end of the week if the score is good, it is exciting,” said Piercy. “So I’m pretty excited.”
The Las Vegas native closed with a 3-under 67 to edge William McGirt (69) and Robert Garrigus (70) by a shot. Those men spent the final day locked in a see-saw battle and each of them found their name atop the leaderboard at one point.
It became a three-way tie when Piercy chipped in for birdie from off the 15th green and a playoff looked likely as he played mistake-free the rest of the way.
His competitors weren’t so fortunate. Garrigus dropped back with a three-putt bogey on No. 16 while McGirt missed the chance to force a playoff with a lost shot at the final hole. He found a greenside bunker and was unable to get up and down.
Piercy watched it unfold from the scorer’s tent and embraced his caddie when a birdie try from Garrigus came up short.
“I’ve been playing good for a while now,” said Piercy. “(To win) you need a couple of good breaks here or there and just play solid. I’m kind of speechless, to be honest. I’m really excited to be the champion.”
Piercy’s winning score of 17-under 263 matched the tournament scoring record established by Johnny Palmer at Winnipeg’s St. Charles Country Club in 1952.
His harsh-sounding assessment of Hamilton earlier in the week was intended to be nothing more than an expression of personal preference. One of the PGA Tour’s long hitters, Piercy prefers to hammer his driver on every hole — something the tight, tree-lined layout simply wouldn’t allow.
This has tended to be a course that favours methodical players — Bob Tway won here in 2003 and Jim Furyk came out on top in 2006 — but persistent rain turned it into a bomber’s paradise.
Garrigus is as long as they come off the tee and entered the final round with a one-shot lead on McGirt.
That disappeared quickly as he failed to convert a handful of good birdie chances on the front nine while Piercy reeled off four in a row.
“I should have won this golf tournament by seven shots — everybody knows that,” said Garrigus. “If I could have just made a putt today. … I just couldn’t get a feel for it.”
McGirt was also left wondering what could have been. Playing in the final group on tour for the first time, he did all he could to hold his nerves together but acknowledged that he couldn’t get the “butterflies to fly in formation.”
Failing to birdie the par-5 17th hole — the easiest on the course — was just as costly as the bogey on No. 18 that gave Piercy the win.
“It’s still a good week,” said McGirt. “I’ll take nothing but positives away from this week.”
The victory was a major step for Piercy as he continues to establish himself as an up-and-coming player. His only other win on the PGA Tour came at last year’s Reno-Tahoe Open, a tournament he won’t be able to defend this week because his victory at Hamilton gave him a spot at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational instead.
Among the other major perks he’ll receive is an invitation to Augusta National next spring. That’s a dream come true.
“I’ve always wanted to go there,” he said. “I always told myself I’m not going unless I’m in the tournament. So now I can go. The Masters has the history and everything around it.
“And I look forward to it. I really do.”
Notes: Next year’s Canadian Open will be played at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. … McGirt didn’t miss a putt inside 10 feet during the tournament, going 63-for-63 … Vijay Singh earned his sixth career top-10 finish at the Canadian Open … Amateur Albin Choi of Toronto closed with a 72 and tied for 73rd in his second PGA Tour event.