DeLaet, Hughes face Herculean tasks in final round of Canadian Open

Graham DeLaet, left, and Mackenzie Hughes have it all to do in the final round of the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday. (CP Photo)

OAKVILLE, ONT — Graham DeLaet tapped in his bogey putt on No. 11, then he walked off the picturesque Par 4 at Glen Abbey shaking his head, and the Tour veteran from Weyburn, Sask., gave his golf bag a swift kick on the way by.

It was that kind of day for the hometown favourites in Round 3 of the RBC Canadian Open.

In the words of Mackenzie Hughes, the only other Canadian to make the cut among the 17 who started in this field, the feeling after Saturday’s round could be summed up in a couple of words: “Frustrated. Disappointed.”

Both Canadians started the day four shots off the pace, but after a third round of one-over, DeLaet sits 10 strokes back of leader Charley Hoffman, while Hughes is 11 back, after carding a two-over-par 74.

In other words, the two Canadians left standing in this tournament have a heck of a lot of work to do to climb back up that leaderboard. Saturday was especially frustrating, DeLaet said, given the low scores other guys were coming up with, including a 62 from American Robert Garrigus, who matched the course record.

“When you’re sitting at one or two-over par and you see a 62 posted, you know how it is,” DeLaet said. “It’s like, man, you feel like you’re playing even worse than you are. But it was one of those days.”

Hughes had a feeling it was going to be one of those days before he even made the turn. He recorded six bogeys on the day, and left a couple birdie putts just short in the early goings, on No. 3 and No. 7. The 26-year-old opened this tournament with a round of 67 and followed that up with a 69 on Friday, but said he “didn’t have it” in Round 3.

“I had a feeling kind of in the first six, seven, eight holes, that it wasn’t quite there and it was going to be a grind,” said Hughes, who’s from nearby Dundas, Ont. “If I could have somehow shot two under, three under par, it would have been a great round, given the way I was playing. Couldn’t quite manage to do that.”

He narrowly missed a 26-footer for Eagle on 18—Hughes had the knee bend going, trying to will that ball to drop—and then tapped in for birdie.

“It was right in the heart and just died the last second. Would have been a nice way to finish, but that’s kind of how the day went,” Hughes said. “It sucks to play poorly anywhere you play, but especially here, where I want to do well so badly.”

DeLaet, meanwhile, didn’t get off to a great start. He discovered a couple dozen balls went missing from his locker, and had to scramble to find some before he teed off. He opened the round with a bogey on 1, but battled back and made the turn at one under, high-fiving Canadian fans as he walked to the 10th tee.

It was when he entered the valley stretch of this Jack Nicklaus design, starting at No. 11, that his round took a turn.

“I hit bad tee shots on 11, 12, 13, 14 and all of a sudden I was a couple over before you know it on a day that everyone was going pretty low,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”

DeLaet had back-to-back bogeys on 11 and 12, then had a good look on birdie on 13 after knocking his approach shot from the rough to eight feet, but couldn’t get it to drop.

On the Par-3 15th, he got a huge roar from the gallery when he nearly holed out his tee shot, then tapped in for birdie.

“That was definitely the highlight of my day and kind of got me out of the dumps a little bit, and I was able to at least finish with some pars,” DeLaet said.

Both DeLaet and Hughes walked up to the 18th green and got a nice ovation from the surrounding gallery, and both had more than 100 fans in tow during their rounds.

“I played poorly all day and I was 3-over par, and still got an ovation on the last hole,” Hughes said. “That makes you feel good, at least finishing off.”

The hope is the good feelings extend into Sunday. And the good news is, low numbers are aplenty on this course, and players have been climbing the leaderboard in rapid fashion.

“I know those scores are out there,” Hughes said. “You never know what can happen. I’ll give it my best shot tomorrow.”

He’s hoping with a little time on the practice putting green, he can get his putter to heat up again.

“And,” as he put it, “maybe a course record tomorrow.”

Now that’s the spirit.