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Canadian Open leader David Hearn eyes history Sunday

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.

‘I feel like I’m ready to step up to the challenge.’ – Canadian golfer David Hearn

Hearn leads the Canadian Open by two strokes through three rounds and is in position to be the first Canadian to win the tournament since Pat Fletcher in 1954.

“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.

On a few holes he hit the ball between trees and always managed to stay on course. Along the way, he heard plenty more roars than silence.

“I kind of fed off that energy,” Hearn said.

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.

A 61-year drought on everyone’s minds and that kind of competition chasing. No pressure.

“What anybody else does, it boils down to me,” Hearn said. “I still have to go out there tomorrow and perform. I still have to go out and hit good shots and make some birdies.”

‘I’m right where I want to be. I just wish the leader was a little closer to us.’ – World No. 3 Bubba Watson on Hearn

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.

Day, the spoiler?

“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.

Americans Michael Putnam and Brooks Koepka are three back at 12 under, and world No. 7 Jim Furyk and Camilo Villegas are four back of Hearn at 11 under.

Hearn and Watson will play in the final group Sunday. Despite having the lead, Hearn sees himself as the underdog.

“Hopefully I can make some birdies and David can beat Goliath,” he said.

Watson considers himself “half-Canadian” because his wife, Angie, is from Pickering, Ont., and hopes that gets him some support. He also doesn’t see himself as a spoiler.

“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.”

‘Birdie fest’

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.

Hearn is the first Canadian to have a 54-hole lead at the Canadian Open since Mike Weir in 2004. Weir led by three shots but lost in a three-hole playoff to Vijay Singh.

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.

Even though Hearn came close to winning the Greenbrier Classic in early July, this is a different one that he has ever faced before. Hearn believes he’s prepared for it.

“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.”

Other Canadians solid

Long before Hearn moved to the top of the Canadian Open leaderboard, fellow Canadian Adam Svensson was Mr. Lonely during his third round.

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.

Amateurs Blair Hamilton and Austin Connelly shot 76 and 77 respectively. They made the cut but were designated “made didn’t finish” and won’t play Sunday.

CBC | Sports News