Oakville – Robert Garrigus had a vision and lived it in real time.
As a result, the 39-year-old from Idaho will be in prime position to earn his second career win on the PGA Tour at the 108th RBC Canadian Open.
“This is really weird, but last night, I’m sitting in my room thinking: ‘if I can get a lead before they even tee off, that would be awesome,” said Garrigus after his round Saturday at Glen Abbey Golf Club. “I was thinking that the whole night. Now I don’t know what that means, but I had a confident mind-set.”
It means Garrigus saw the future.
Standing by his third shot on the 18th fairway, the practice range was visible just over Garrigus’ right shoulder. It was almost empty, save for a handful of golfers still waiting to tee off for the third round – the tournament leaders, still waiting to play.
Or the former leaders, at least at that moment. Before second-round leader Robert Flores even put his tee in the ground at 1:25 p.m., he was in second place, three shots back of Garrigus, who started his round at 9:15 am. He started the day at five-under-par and tied for 46th place, seven off the lead and proceeded to play golf as charged by rocket fuel.
Seventeen holes later he had a wedge in his hand with a golden opportunity to break a course record that had stood for 36 years and only been equalled four times.
“A 95-yard shot, five feet left?” he said to his caddie, more for affirmation than for guidance.
“You got it,” he was told.
The result was a 96-yard shot about 16 feet left. Not bad. Garrigus gave his birdie putt a chance but it rolled 20 inches past. Still, the tap-in par gave him a 10-under-par 62 and the lead with 18 holes to play.
He didn’t expect it to stand up — “I’ll probably be in seventh place by the end of the day” — and in this he saw the future again, but not as precisely this time around.
Garrigus was on top of the leaderboard for most of the day until displaced by Charley Hoffman’s seven-under-par 65 that left him at 17-under-par, one up on Kevin Chappell (66) and two up on Garrigus, who was tied with Gary Woodland, who followed up his second-round 63 with a 68 on Saturday.
Lurking is the field’s biggest name, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who will start Sunday at 12-under-par and tied for 16th, but recognizing he could have been much lower after playing the front in five-under-par. His drive on the 11th hit a cart path and bounced into trouble, leading to a bogey. He missed a 20-footer for eagle at the par-five 16th on the heels of a 338-yard drive; missed the green from the rough with a wedge on 17 and made bogey and then had to layup after finding a fairway bunker on the 18th hole and couldn’t convert a nine-foot birdie putt.
“When you turn in 30 and I’m playing just solid, really good golf, obviously go to 11 and make double, that kind of — that derails you a little bit,” said Johnson, who is hitting just 42 per cent of his fairways through 54 holes, although he did average 334 yards off the tee in the third round. “But then I hit some really good shots and just lipped-out a few putts there on the back nine. Had a lot of good opportunities.
“I ended up shooting 1 over on the back, which is not a very good score.”
But there are good ones out there as Garrigus’ round would prove and a full field scoring average of 69.7 would echo.
“When you look at the board before I even tee off and someone shoots 62, you know the birdies are out there,” said Hoffman. “Perfect day here in Toronto to make some birdies and have some fun in front of the fans here.”
Garrigus got his round going with a chip-in for eagle on the par-five second, an eight-footer for birdie at the third and another chip-in at the par-three fourth on his way to a front-nine 29.
“It was as lot of fun,” said Garrigus. “I hadn’t chipped in all year, it feels like …. I’m like, ‘wow’, If I can just keep my head about me today I might shoot something really low.”
He did exactly that. His signature moment was a purely struck 4-iron from 209 yards on the par-five 16th that he stuck within four feet. He knew it was on target the moment he hit it and showed it as he twirled his club and walked after his shot, Tiger Woods style.
“I’ve been hitting it really good lately and I know when my shots are perfect and I knew that was perfect,” he said. “Put the perfect amount of height on it, perfect draw, started right where I was looking … Put a little sauce on that one.”
Garrigus wouldn’t have been on too many lists of pre-tournament given he’s ranked 131st in FedEx Cup points and missed seven straight cuts at one point this summer. He’s a classic journeyman who credits his longevity on the PGA Tour in part to a rehab trip that helped tame his struggles with marijuana and alcohol early in his professional career. That was the product of a vision, too, as he was watching late night TV, miserable with his state and saw an advertisement for a Christian-based rehab facility. He enrolled and has never looked back.
His round on Saturday? He saw it in his mind brought it to life.
“My wife and I prayed all night pretty much that I would play well because I’m in a position that I need to,” he said. “And God answered my prayers.”
He came in playing well, at least. His lone top-10 of the season came last week at the Barbasol Championship while the Tour’s upper crust was at the British Open. But he hits it long – he averages 300.3 yards off the tee – and is a good iron player, and to hear him tell it is comfortable going low.
“My mind shuts off,” said Garrigus, whose career-low round in competition as a pro is 61, but said he’s had a number of 60s in friendly rounds and as an amateur. “I might be kind of an idiot when it comes to that but that’s fine. I’m almost so dumb I can play golf good. That’s a good quality to have out here, because you’re not thinking about anything. You’re not thinking about missing a shot or hitting it close or whatever.
“I’ve been out here for a long time and I’ve about rounds like these where I just got out of my own way, and that’s a really important thing.”
The future will come in a hurry on Sunday, however. Garrigus’ plan after playing one of the rounds of his life seemingly on command?
Forget it ever happened.
“When I leave the parking lot, I’ll be done with it,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll have a lot of text messages and calls [and] hopefully I can do the same tomorrow and go out and just focus one shot at a time. It’s the old cliché in golf but it’s the most important one because you can’t get ahead of yourself.”
Well, not always, but for one round at least Garrigus’ gaze into the future worked out just fine.