Cormack: Snedeker comes through for Cdn caddie

Brandt Snedeker hugs his Canadian caddie Scott Vail after winning the Canadian Open. (CP/Nathan Denette)

OAKVILLE, Ont.– Canada will have to wait another year for a home-grown champion at the RBC Canadian Open, but Brandt Snedeker’s win might be the next best thing.

On Sunday at Glen Abbey Golf Club, the 33-year-old — aided in large part by his Oshawa, Ont.-born caddy Scott Vail — shot a 2-under par 70 in breezy and difficult conditions for a three-shot win over three players in the $5.6-million event.

The win is Snedeker’s second of 2013 and vaults him to third place on the FedEx Cup points list, trailing only Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods.

Afterwards, the affable Tennessean sounded sincere when he said the victory, his fifth in the past three seasons, carries some special significance.

“I’m just ecstatic right now,” said Snedeker. “This is a tournament I said early on in my career I wanted to win just because my caddy is from Canada and it’s his national open. It meant a lot to me, and to him.

“It’s the third oldest tournament on tour,” he continued. “It’s got some great history to it and now I’m able to put my name on that trophy.”

You can almost hear Mike Weir saying the words himself.

Snedeker and Vail, who have worked together since 2006, had their teamwork put to the test with Snedeker leading but in big trouble on the par-3 12th hole.

His four-iron into the difficult, 205-yard hole had travelled long and left into a wooded area — “junk” as Snedeker would later describe it — coming to rest directly in front of a log.

There was no choice but to attempt to lift and remove the log, but if the ball moved during the process, a penalty shot would be incurred. It was a delicate procedure at a pivotal point in the tournament, and the two men knew it.

“The log looked like it was about to break right by the ball,” said Vail, who added the 18th flag was sitting in the bottom of his bag, destined for a frame in his home. “It was really soggy and old so I said we better put two hands on that, and you grab the one end.

“We played a game of Operation, like the game when we were kids,” he said. “We managed to pull it off. It was close, but we did.”

With the log now safely out of the way, Snedeker chipped out short of the green and then got up and down for a manageable bogey.

The bogey was Snedeker’s lone blemish on the back nine, allowing the 54-hole leader to cruise home while other contenders either faltered, or failed to make a charge.

“It was a make or break moment,” Snedeker said. “There was a crack in the log, and I didn’t see it. (Vail) did a great job of catching me there and getting me thinking clearly. He did a great job all day.”

Unable to avoid disaster on the back nine was Dustin Johnson.

After a birdie on 16 to tie Snedeker for the lead at 15-under, the 29-year-old American blocked his tee shot on 17 out of bounds. His next shot landed in a fairway bunker and he then failed to extricate himself from it with his fourth shot.

Three shots later Johnson walked off the green with a triple bogey seven, and another disappointing Sunday finish in 2013, albeit one that ended with a post-round kiss from girlfriend Paulina Gretzky, who watched him finish up on 18.

“I was playing really well, really confident and driving the ball really well,” said Johnson, who up until that point on Sunday had made four birdies without bogey. “It’s a driver hole for me and unfortunately I just blocked it. I just made a poor swing with a tough wind.”

In 20 weekend rounds in 2013, Johnson has shot in the 60s just four times, including Saturday’s sizzling 63 at Glen Abbey. He has shot 74 or higher on nine occasions.

In comparison, Snedeker has played 23 weekend rounds in 2013, shooting 69 or better 12 times and 74 or higher just once.

“He just keeps getting better and better,” said Vail. “He’s calm, he knows how to win with the lead now. His sand game was brilliant this week. I told him he must like this Canadian sand.”

On Monday, it will be Vail’s turn to take centre stage as the 36-year-old will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at his home course, the Oshawa Golf Club.

Also expected to be on hand for Vail’s special day will be none other than the 2013 RBC Canadian Open champion.

Notes: David Hearn (Brantford, Ont.) took home top Canadian honours after a final round 73 to finish at 4-under, one shot ahead of Weir (Brights Grove, Ont.) who shot a 72. Calgary’s Roger Sloan was the only other Canadian to play the weekend. He closed with three straight birdies in a round of 72 to finish at 2-under and T52. Ottawa’s Brad Fritsch was the fourth Canuck to make the cut but was forced to withdraw with an injury prior to the third round. … On Sunday, 36-hole leader Hunter Mahan tweeted news that his wife had given birth to a baby girl (Zoe) early that morning. Mahan withdrew from the tournament on Saturday prior to the start of his third round. “Zoe will be getting a very nice baby gift from me,” joked Snedeker.

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