July 22, 2016 9:08 pm
Updated: July 23, 2016 2:06 pm

Dustin Johnson takes RBC Canadian Open lead, as Canadian amateur Jared du Toit lurks close behind


Record heat didn’t lead to record scoring, as swirling winds meant a handful of players, notably U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and Canadian amateur Jared du Toit, battled for the lead in the second round of the RBC Canadian Open.

“It’s really windy,” said Johnson, who finished the day at 7-under and has a share of the lead with Luke List.

“You’ve got to be careful where you hit it. Some of the downwind holes you get it too close to the green where you can’t stop.”

As temperatures jumped to 35 C at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., the grounds crew hand-watered greens to keep them from baking and becoming too firm. Even shots that landed on the browning surfaces took unexpected bounces, meaning even the best struck approaches ended up in surrounding rough. In all, the winds led to massive drives—defending Canadian Open champion Jason Day drove a ball into the pond on the 18th hole, 404 yards off the tee—but also shots that rolled to places rarely seen on the course.

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“You stand over one shot and you’re thinking it’s going to be ten yards into you or 15 or even 20 yards into you, and then the wind dies,” Day explained after carding a 4-over 76 to drop down the leaderboard.

“You’ve got to change your whole process of the shot. So when conditions are like that, it makes it a lot tougher.”

Heading into the day, the story was the strong play of two Canadian amateurs—Garrett Rank, who works full-time as an NHL referee, and du Toit, a 21-year old from Kimberley, B.C., who plays at Arizona State University. Rank shot 3-over to finish in in a tie for 36th, not a bad situation for a part-time golfer who spends his winters officiating NHL games.

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The day started well for du Toit, who briefly held a share of the lead after the first nine holes, nearly witnessed his round derailed by a hooked drive on his 11th hole of the day. The ball bounded into a hazard, and a flared approach shot on the par-5 ended up plugged in a bunker. He lost three shots on the hole, plunging down the leaderboard. But three consecutive birdies starting on his 15th hole brought du Toit back into the mix, and when he rolled in an 11-foot putt for par on his final hole of the day, the amateur found himself tied for third.

“Taking an eight always hurts,” said du Toit. “But I just kind of stayed patient. The putter heated up at the right time and it was all good. Nothing but good things to say.”

A day that started with a tea at a local Tim Hortons might well end with something a little stronger, and du Toit will have plenty of time to reflect on his circumstance as he heads out in one of the final groups of the day. Not since Doug Sanders in 1956 has an amateur won the Canadian Open. Pat Fletcher was the last Canadian to win the tournament in 1954.

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The young Canadian golfer credited his caddie, local golf professional Sean Burke, for refocusing him after his struggles.

“He just kind of theoretically kind of cracked me in the head and said, ‘Hey, get your head back in the game and stick to the game plan and keep doing what you’re doing,” du Toit said.

Incidentally, du Toit’s teammate, Spanish golfer Jon Rahm, the former No. 1 amateur in the world who recently turned pro, is one shot ahead at 6-under.

“I’m playing out of my mind and I still can’t beat him,” du Toit joked. “That was school, that was last semester in a nutshell.”

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