OAKVILLE, Ont.— At the start of the week Venezuelan golfer Jhonattan Vegas wasn’t sure if he’d get to play Canada’s only PGA Tour event. By Sunday night Vegas had recorded his second PGA Tour win, taking the RBC Canadian Open by a single shot.
“I was super surprised when I saw that nobody got to 12-under,” Vegas said after his round.
He had every right to be caught off-guard. At varying points in the final round it looked like numerous golfers—journeyman Steve Wheatcroft, former U.S. Amateur winner Rickie Barnes, and big-hitting Dustin Johnson—could better Vegas.
Vegas, 31, seemed an unlikely winner considering he started Sunday in 15th place. But a final round of 64, which included nine birdies, pushed him into the clubhouse lead, and left him being chased by Wheatcroft, Scottish pro Martin Laird, and others. When Johnson’s eagle attempt, which would have tied for the lead, came up short, Vegas had his first PGA Tour win since his rookie season.
Throughout it all, Vegas said he felt 12-under would be the number that might secure a win.
“Literally that’s the number I had in my mind,” Vegas said. “I didn’t know that was going to be enough, obviously, to win by one, but I knew it was going to give me a good chance.”
Vegas was entered in Monday qualifying for the Canadian Open, as he was not sure he’d get a spot in the tournament. Instead he finished T4 at the Barbasol Championship last week, which secured a start at the Canadian Open.
Vegas will head to the PGA Championship next week, and after to Rio for the Olympic games. Though he admits his country is struggling at the moment, Vegas said he’s dedicating his Olympic debut to Venezuela.
Vegas’ win wasn’t the one Canadians hoped for. Canadian amateur Jared du Toit was in the final group alongside past Canadian Open winner Brandt Snedeker. The story of du Toit, an amateur who was playing in only his second professional tournament, seemed like a fairy tale. No Canadian had won the Canadian Open since 1954, and the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour was Phil Mickelson in 1991.
The 21-year old Canadian, who plays at Arizona State University, seemed nervous heading to the first tee where thousands of fans roared their approval. He made par on the first hole, but as birdies piled up for other players, it became clear it the fairy tale wouldn’t have the ending many hoped for. The young golfer struggled for much of the day, perhaps because he’d had to head to a local emergency room the night before to deal with a case of bronchitis.
Despite his struggles, a birdie on the final hole led to a share of 9th.
“I’m pretty sure you guys saw the round, but I kind of hit it pretty bad all day,” du Toit said. “I just kind of got up and down from everywhere. I made a lot of putts. Honestly I got a lot out of my round.”
Notables: The top Canadian professional for the week was Adam Hadwin, who finished one under on the week in a tie for 49th. World No.2 Dustin Johnson, who was in contention all week, needed to eagle 18 to force a playoff. He settled with a birdie and a T2 finish. Another Canadian amateur who made the weekend was Garret Rank, an NHL referee who got into the field after winning the Canadian Mid-Am. Rank finished T77. World No. 1 Jason Day shot 69-67 on the weekend to play his way to a respectable T14 finish.