By Sam McPherson
Jhonattan Vegas sat in the clubhouse on Sunday afternoon at the RBC Canadian Open patiently wondering if his 276 total — good enough for 12-under par — would hold up. It did. When the third-round leaders finished, the Venezuelan had won his second career PGA Tour title and Canada’s national championship on the strength of a final-round 64. His one-stroke win came over an international trio that included 2016 U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson from the United States.
Vegas overcame an opening-round 73 on the Glen Abbey Golf Club course in Oakville, Ontario, to win his first Tour event since the 2011 Bob Hope Classic. His 69 on Friday got him to the weekend, and his 70 on Saturday kept him in striking distance. But his final round is what pushed him past the strong competition dominating the leaderboard. His Sunday 64 featured nine birdies and just one bogey, as he charged from 15th place to first. It was just Vegas’ day, and he made every shot he needed to on the way to victory in Oakville, Ontario. The win nets Vegas $1.062 million, which more than doubles his Tour earnings this season.
Johnson, who has been on a hot streak lately with six straight top-10 finishes and two huge wins, closed with a 71-69 over the last two rounds to see his mid-tournament lead evaporate. Scotland’s Martin Laird and Spain’s Jon Rahm tied Johnson for second place at 11-under, while three Americans finished in a four-way tie for fifth place at 10-under. The top Canadian finisher was amateur Jared du Toit, after a final round of 71 left him in a four-way tie for ninth place. Meanwhile, top-ranked Jason Day, the event’s defending champion, overcame a second-round 76 to post 69-67 over the weekend and tie for 14th place.
Vegas’ ability to hit greens in regulation all tournament proved to be his winning recipe; he hit 69.44 percent over four rounds, good enough for third best. Laird led in that category with 79.17 percent and also managed to finish fourth in driving distance, averaging 329.6 yards. The tournament leaders were all over the stat sheet at Glen Abbey. Johnson was the top distance driver of the week, averaging 335 yards His 60.17 driving accuracy tied him with Rahm for fifth in the category.
Many of golf’s big names took this week off after last week’s Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland and before this week’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol in Springfield, New Jersey. But the field did include the world’s top two players — Day and Johnson. Vegas’s final-round 64, however, was not to be beat.
Next On The Tee: The PGA Championship
The year’s final two majors are usually spaced out more, with the PGA Championship generally falling in mid-August. But the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio will include golf this year, and that forced scheduling changes. So the season’s fourth major appears on the PGA Tour schedule this year in late July.
Jason Day is the PGA Championship’s defending champion, and he’ll be chasing its $10 million purse along with a slew of other top-ranked golfers this week at the Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course. It will be a hot week in New Jersey, and there will be plenty of star power on the green turf — including recent PGA Championship winners Y.E. Yang (2009), Martin Kaymer (2010), Keegan Bradley (2011), Rory McIlroy (2012, 2014) and Jason Dufner (2013).
Henrik Stenson, the Open Championship winner at Royal Troon last week, and every other top-ranked golfer who isn’t injured will play in the tournament’s the 98th edition. Baltusrol is a time-tested course, having hosted seven U.S. Opens. Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open here twice (1967 and 1980), and Lee Janzen won it here in 1993. The course also hosted the 2005 PGA Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. Coming off that epic second-place finish at Royal Troon, Lefty certainly will be ready to add another major trophy to his collection.
The Lower Course was designed in 1918 by A.W Tillinghast. In 2005, the club itself was listed with the National Register of Historic Places.
The Baltusrol Golf Club Lower Course plays 7,400 yards long and is a par 72.
Favorites: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth
Players to Watch: Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.