MONTREAL – When Jim Furyk’s charge to a third RBC Canadian Open title stalled in the final round, Tim Clark decided to go for it.
The 38-year-old South African, whose wife Candice is Canadian, fired five birdies on the back nine to overtake Furyk on the 15th hole and hold on to win the US$5.7 million tournament at Royal Montreal on Sunday.
Recovering from a first-hole bogey that put him four shots off the lead, Clark shot a five-under-par 65 to finish at 17-under-par 263 and claim his second career PGA Tour victory and the $1,026-million winner’s prize.
“It looked like Jim wasn’t going to make any mistakes,” said Clark, who had moved into contention with a 64 on Saturday. “He was pretty solid, so I knew I had to make birdies.
“At that point, there was nothing to lose. Suddenly I got hot and I went with it.”
It was another frustrating defeat for Furyk, who has now lost seven tournaments in a row in which he led after 54 holes. He went into the final round with a three-stroke cushion but never found traction. He shot 69 to come second at 16-under 264.
“I kind of controlled my own destiny,” said Furyk. “I’ve got to shoot three or four (under par) and it would have been impossible to catch me, or darn near it.
“I left the door open with even par on the front nine and Tim took advantage and shot 30 on the back.”
Furyk has not won since a victory at the 2010 Players Championship that gave him the FedEx Cup title and PGA player of the year honours. He fell short in a bid to join elite company in Tommy Armour, Sam Snead and Lee Trevino by becoming the fourth player to win the Canadian Open three times after his victories in 2006 and 2007.
Instead, it went to the stocky Clark, the long putter user who needed a win after battling elbow trouble in recent years.
The win moved him from 85th to 27th in FedEX Cup standings and gave him entry into next week’s World Golf Championship event in Akron, Ohio and into the PGA championship. He also gets fully exempt status on the PGA Tour through the 2015-16 season.
While Graham DeLaet’s bid to became the first Canadian to win his national open in 60 years fell short, the trophy went to a player with connections, and a history, in Canada.
Clark’s wife Candice is from Toronto and has family in Montreal. He won his first professional tournament at the New Brunswick Open on the Canadian Tour in 1998 and followed a week later with a win at the CPGA Championship.
“The irony of it is Canada could be the location of my first win and my last one,” he said. “To come back here, it’s full circle.
“That was 16 years ago when I was just cutting my teeth as a professional golfer and I was fortunate enough to be given some starts up here, so I have fond memories.
“It’s certainly one I’ve wanted to win for a long time. Any national championship to me is special. particularly to the people from that country. It’s an honour for me to be the open champion.”
DeLaet was in contention after he and Furyk tied the course record with 63s in the second round on Friday, but he went 70-68 in the last two rounds to finished at 10-under 270. He took the low Canadian honour by one stroke over Brad Fritsch of Ottawa, who closed with a 64 to end up at 9-under, tied for ninth with Kevin Kisner and Graeme McDowell.
“I fell a little short, but it was fun,” said DeLaet, Canada’s top-ranked player. “So many people were cheering for me.
“Now I know how Tiger and Phil and those guys feel all the time because it was pretty neat. Coming down 18 was a special moment.
Justin Hicks shot 64 to leap into third place alone at 13-under 267 in his best performance of the season.
Matt Kuchar (65), Michael Putnam (66) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (66) finished tied for fourth at 11-under 269.
Golf Canada and the PGA Tour moved up the starting times by two hours and had the players go out in threesomes from both the first and 10th tees to try to fit in the final round between forecast rainstorms.
It almost worked to perfection. Most of the field had finished their rounds when a cloudburst halted play for 26 minutes with the final group – including Furyk, Clark and Kyle Stanley – had only four holes left to play.
Clark and Furyk were tied at 15-under when the rain came. When play resumed, Clark birdied to take the lead. Both players birdied the 17th to set up a dramatic final hole.
Clark left a 44-foot putt about six feet short, but Furyk missed left on a 12-footer and Clark sealed the win by holing a six-foot putt.
“Once he missed his putt, I didn’t want to have to go into a playoff, knowing he can take it over the water (off the 18th tee) and I have to play over to the right,’ said Clark. ”So it was huge for me to get it finished right there.
“I got hot with the putter on the back nine. To stand over that putt and still feel confident was really nice.”
DeLaet, from Weyburn, Sask., tied for seventh with Dicky Pride, who matched the course record with a bogey-free 63. He won the Rivermead Cup as low Canadian.
Pride had the course record at 64 the last time the event was held at Royal Montreal in 2001 only to see Scott Verplank and David Morland go one shot better the next day.
“I had to get my course record back,” said Pride, who birdied the 17th and 18th for the record. “So to tie them and go back and get it, I’m pretty happy about that.
“And I was thinking about it on 18 too, which is an idiotic thing to do, but I made the putt anyway.”
Fritsch had a 10-foot putt on the 18th in a bid for a share of the record, but missed by perhaps a centimetre.
But the 36-year-old in the Ottawa Senators golf shirt used his 64 to finish the event at 9-under. His bogey free round included three birdies and an eagle on the back nine. Fritsch just made the cut on Friday with a birdie on the 18th.
“We made the most of the weekend,” said Fritsch. “We felt like we were playing with house money this weekend just because we felt lucky to even be playing.”
“I played great today. On the back nine, I made a bunch of putts and made some good shots coming down the stretch.
Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., capped a strong first Canadian Open experience with a 69 to finish as the low amateur at 3-under.
David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., and Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C. both shot 71s and finished at 2-under. Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont. had 71 to finish at 2-over par.
Clark tied the tournament low total score of 263 with Johnny Palmer (1952) and Scott Piercy (2012).