Snedeker battles the wind for RBC Canadian Open win

OAKVILLE, Ont. – When Hunter Mahan withdrew at the start of the third round of the RBC Canadian Open because his wife went into premature labour, it handed an opportunity to everyone who made the weekend cut at the RBC Canadian Open.

Brandt Snedeker turned out to be the player most able to take advantage, carding a 2-under par performance on Sunday to win Canada’s national open by three strokes.

Snedeker said he’d use the $1-million winner’s cheque to buy a nice present for Mahan’s new baby, named Zoe, who was born early Sunday morning.

“Zoe will be getting a very nice baby gift from me,” he said. “I can’t thank [Mahan’s wife] Kandi enough for going into labor early – I don’t know if I’d be sitting here if she hadn’t.  But that is a way more important thing than a golf tournament.  I missed a golf tournament when my first was born, and it was the best decision I ever made.  I’m sure Hunter would say the same thing.”
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Mahan had the lead at 13-under par heading into Saturday’s third round when he was notified that his wife, former Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleader Kandi Harris, would give birth to the couple’s first child about four weeks early. Mahan withdrew from the tournament and flew home to Dallas on a private jet in time for the birth of his daughter, while Snedeker tore apart a benign Glen Abbey Golf Club, shooting a 9-under 63 and vaulting into the top spot.

Sunday, however, started very differently. The soft, calm conditions on Saturday gave way to high winds, making the final round a struggle for Snedeker to hang on ahead of challengers like bomber Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, who was the highest-ranked player in the field.

“The wind was blowing very hard and every fairway was tough to hit, every green was getting firm,” Snedeker explained. “It placed an importance on managing your golf ball. I did a great job today of saving pars early in the round.  I was able to hit some quality shots coming down the stretch when I needed to and put the ball in the right spot.”

Snedeker almost lost his grip on the championship after entering the valley holes on Glen Abbey’s back nine. On the 12th hole, a long par three, Snedeker’s 4-iron flared to the right, bounding into nasty thick grass. Snedeker took some time identifying the ball and carefully moving a log that limited his swing.

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Snedeker said it extracting the log was like playing the childhood game of Operation.

“Luckily, my caddie and I did a great job going back to our six or seven‑year‑old days, playing Operation out of there and not touching the sides or anything,” he said, laughing. After deftly removing the log, Snedeker then slashed the ball out of the rough to a spot just off the green and managed a bogey.

However, Dustin Johnson, with girlfriend Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey great Wayne Gretzky watching, made a surge up the leaderboard as Snedeker struggled. One of the longest hitters in golf, Johnson seemed poised to overpower the par fives that make up two of Glen Abbey’s final holes. However, after moving into a tie for the lead with a birdie on the 16th hole, Johnson’s drive on the following hole flew wildly to the right, ending up near a maintenance building and out of bounds. He would eventually record a triple-bogey seven on the hole and fall into a four-way tie for second with Kuchar, Jason Bohn and William McGirt.

Kuchar praised Snedeker’s steady play and recovery from an early-season rib injury. “When he’s on, he’s just really, really good,” Kuchar said. “He’s going to hit the ball solidly and he’s putting so well. He’s a force to be reckoned with.”

The floppy haired Snedeker isn’t your stereotypical golfer. With his Canadian caddie, Scott Vail, helping him around on course, Snedeker said it took the birth of his daughter to help put his career into perspective.

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“I’ve won five times now since she was born two and a half years ago,” he said. “I think it puts golf in perspective. I think out here can you place way too much importance on how you’re swinging the golf club and how you play. Even though it is our career, it doesn’t define who we are as people.

“I used to take everything way too seriously on the golf course,” he continued. “It used to be who I was.  Now with a daughter and new young son, I realize they don’t care at the end of the day if I shot 90 or 60.”


Four Canadians made the weekend, but Manotick’s Brad Fritsch departed with a back injury.  Brantford, Ont.’s David Hearn, who nearly won at the John Deere Classic two weeks ago, was the low Canadian, winning the Rivermead Cup with a 1-over par Sunday to finish tied for 44th. Former Masters champ Mike Weir posted a solid even par final round to finish tied for 49th while golfer Roger Sloan, from Merritt, BC, also shot even par to end T52.

Hearn, who was low Canadian in 2006, said he was proud of his finish.

“I was playing pretty solid today and had a chance to finish the round with a little bit of style,” Hearn said. “But I’ll take some positives away this week and I obviously appreciate the support from everyone. The support from everyone here in Canada is amazing and I can’t wait to do it again next year.”

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Weir praised the 18 Canadians who played in the tournament.

“I think the country has a lot of talent,” he said. “I think going forward there are going to be some of these younger guys getting [onto the PGA Tour] … there is a lot of talent in this country for sure.”

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