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David Hearn won’t soon forget the ovation he received at the first tee and the cheers he heard from Canadian fans every time he approached a green. Chants of “David, David” greeted him as he walked off the 16th green as he was squarely in the spotlight.
Now, Hearn is 18 holes from history.
“It’s something you dream of, obviously, being Canadian, to be in the final group leading this golf tournament,” Hearn said from Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. “I feel like I’m ready to step up to the challenge.”
Hearn, from Brantford, Ont., had five birdies and just one bogey Saturday to jump into the lead at 15 under. His driving was just “OK,” but his chips and putts were enough as he played conservative and avoided making mistakes.
“I kind of fed off that energy,” Hearn said.
The home fans are cheering as this approach, and the ensuing putt, put David Hearn atop the leaderboard. #QuickHits http://t.co/PMpFUCbnqc
Hearn will again be the home-country favourite Sunday, but sealing the deal won’t be easy with three top-10 golfers on his heels. World No. 3 Bubba Watson and No. 10 Jason Day are tied for second, two shots back.
Watson and Day did plenty of that on the back nine Saturday to inch closer. Watson had birdies on three par-5s, including one on No. 18.
“I’m right where I want to be,” Watson said. “I just wish the leader was a little closer to us.”
Day rebounded from a bogey on the 10th hole and double-bogey to birdie six of his final seven. In a tournament sponsored by RBC, Day has a connection, but he understands what the crowd wants in the final round.
“Obviously it’d be great to see a Canadian win, but I’m going to do my best to try and spoil that,” Day said.
Canadian David Hearn now leads by three. #QuickHits http://t.co/xrLqvaQzwC
“Hopefully I can make some birdies and David can beat Goliath,” he said.
“Let’s be honest: We don’t think about where somebody’s from,” Watson said. “All we think about is there’s a guy in front of us. I’ve got a couple family members [here]. They’re going to pull for me, too.”
Watson expects it to be a “birdie fest” if the wind calms down, as expected. Hearn doesn’t expect 15 under to win, especially with the powerhouse golfers chasing him.
The closest a Canadian has been through three rounds since was 2011, when Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., was second to Bo Van Pelt. Hadwin tied for fourth.
Holding the lead and looking for his first PGA Tour victory, there will be heavy pressure on the 36-year-old Hearn. Asked about messages on his phone, Hearn joked that he hoped the whole country didn’t have his phone number.
“Yeah, there will be pressure out there,” he said. “I’m looking forward to embracing it.”
Like Singh in 2004, when the world’s best golfer apologized for beating Weir, Hearn’s competitors understand how much this tournament means. Day is empathetic to the situation.
“The ball doesn’t know what tournament it is,” Day said. “He does, unfortunately, so he’s just got to go out and try to stick to his process. But unfortunately there’s a lot of guys trying to win, as well.”
Svensson made the most of it.
With the first tee time Saturday morning because an odd number of players made the cut, Svensson played 18 holes by himself. The Surrey, B.C., native shot a 5-under 67 to make a major move up the leaderboard at 7 under for the tournament.
Svensson, who’s tied for 26th going into the final round, had never golfed solo before in a tournament setting and called it a fun day. He had to be an early riser, though, teeing off at 7 a.m.
Beyond Hearn’s heroics, it was a strong day Canadian Adam Hadwin, who shot 5 under to get to 8 under and a tie for 20th.