TORONTO — The premature arrival of a new baby to Hunter Mahan’s family couldn’t have come at a better time for Brandt Snedeker.
Mahan, who was leading the RBC Canadian Open through the first two rounds, withdrew suddenly just as he was about to tee off. As he was preparing on the range, Mahan’s wife, former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Kandi Harris, who was expecting the couple’s first child next month, called to say she was in labour and heading to the hospital. That meant as opposed to walking to the first tee, Mahan was heading to the airport, flying back to Dallas hoping to be there for the baby’s arrival. Mahan is apparently expecting a girl, and he and his wife already has a name picked – Zoe. The baby hadn’t arrived by the time this story was filed.
As Mahan was leaving Ontario in a private jet, Snedeker was flying around the golf course, making six birdies in his first nine holes, making the turn at 29 and putting his tidy short game and putting on display. He started the round in 15th place, but finished the day at the top of the leaderboard.
Snedeker said he came aware of Mahan’s disappearance from the leaderboard part way through his round.
“On seven tee on the par-three I looked up and I didn’t see Hunter’s name on the leaderboard, and I looked at my caddie, and I go, ‘What’s going on?’” Snedeker explained. “He goes, ‘I think Hunter had to leave because Kandi went into labor.’ So just kind of left the tournament wide open.”
Snedeker, who won the $10-million FedEx Cup in 2012, already has a win this year and has become one of golf’s most dependable and consistent stars. Despite his low score, Snedeker said he’s never entirely comfortable on the course.
“It never feels easy,” he said. “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.”
And though he admitted he’ll need a low number in the final round on Sunday, Snedeker is happy with the role of frontrunner.
“I’d much rather play with the lead than come from behind just because you have room to make a mistake,” Snedeker said. “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.”
Snedeker also has a Canadian connection, with Oshawa, Ont. caddie Scott Vail carrying his clubs for all of his tour wins.
With little wind and soft greens, a number of low rounds were fired, especially in the afternoon as rain and humidity made for optimal scoring conditions. Dustin Johnson, one of the PGA Tour’s longest hitters, matched Snedeker’s 63 and valued into a tie for fourth. Similarly Matt Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in the field, fired a 64 and moved into third place. However, other big names like Bubba Watson, failed to take advantage of the benign conditions, and moved backwards.
Still Snedeker expects he’s need a strong round to take the title.
“It’s a lot of fun to come down that last stretch knowing that anything can happen,” he said, referencing Glen Abbey Golf Club’s finishing holes. “You’re never really out of it here until you walk off the 18th green.”
For Mahan’s part, he sent a note apologizing for withdrawing from the tournament, but saying he’d be back at the tournament in the future.
“Kandi and I are thrilled about this addition to the Mahan family and we look forward to returning to the RBC Canadian Open in coming years,” his statement said.
One thing is clear – Mahan, who has four Top 10 finishes this year including Top 10 finishes at the U.S. and British Opens and has made $2.3-million in winnings, won’t need any help supporting the family’s newest member despite missing out on a shot at the Canadian Open title.
Johnson said it made sense for Mahan to depart.
“Obviously there’s no reason why he wouldn’t go,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate that he had to leave. I played with him for the last two days and he just played wonderful golf, putted really well and hit it really well.”
© Shaw Media, 2013