Garrigus takes lead at Canadian Open

Robert Garrigus of the U.S. hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the RBC...

Robert Garrigus of the U.S. hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club on July 28, 2012 in Ancaster, Ontario. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images/AFP)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

ANCASTER, ONT. - Robert Garrigus is a guy who has paid his dues, made his mistakes both on and off the golf course and Sunday he expects all those experiences will help him win the 2012 Canadian Open.

Garrigus, a native of Idaho who grew up in Oregon and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, takes a one shot lead into Sunday’s final round at Hamilton Golf and Country Club where the PGA Tour pros have conspired with Mother Nature to turn our national golf open into a dart-throwing contest.

Garrigus started Saturday’s third round at 10-under-par, a shot behind co-leaders William McGirt and Scott Piercy and fashioned a round of six-under-par 64 to set a new 54-hole tournament record of 194, eclipsing Arnold Palmer’s 58-year-old mark of 195.

“Whoops,” said Garrigus, when informed of the accomplishment. “Sorry Arnie.”

Ten days ago, HGCC was running firm and fast in the run-up to the tournament, but several rain storms have left the golf course soft and vulnerable.

“The course is soft and I’ve been leaving myself a tremendous amount of opportunities to shoot low scores,” said Garrigus. “You know, that doesn’t happen very often.”

The first three rounds of this tournament have produced two rounds of 62 and no fewer than 31 scores of 65 or better, aided by the PGA Tour’s insistence on “lift, clean and place” because of wet conditions through the first two rounds. Saturday, the field played the ball as it lies but still 39 players in the field of 79 broke par.

In the aftermath, Garrigus leads McGirt by a shot and Piercy by two. Bo Van Pelt, Scott Stallings and Chris Kirk are another two shots back at 12-under. In all, 10 players are double-figures under par heading into the final 18 holes.

Just over two years ago, Garrigus took a three-shot lead to the 72nd hole of the Memphis St. Jude’s Classic, made a triple-bogey seven and lost to Lee Westwood in a three-man playoff.

“I’m not even close to the same player I was back then,” said Garrigus. “My fitness level is off the charts from where it used to be. I rarely find myself sweating on the golf course and, if you remember Memphis, I was sweating like a pig. I just think I’m more mature.”

He even suggested that his Memphis meltdown may have been the best thing that happened to him.

“One hundred per cent,” he said. “What I had to do was hard, just dealing with that and having to man up and do the interviews afterward and say, ‘Hey, I’m an idiot.’ I didn’t know how to handle it. That really helped me in my career.”

That same season, Garrigus won at Disney in his last start of the season to save his playing privileges going forward into 2011.

“I was sitting on the 18th tee at Disney and I looked at my caddie and I was, like, ‘We’ve got a three-shot lead and I know exactly what not to do.’ I kind of giggled it off, made par and won the golf tournament.”

With 18 holes to go, Garrigus knows exactly what he has to do on this vulnerable golf course.

“I need to go low,” he said. “(Right now), it’s just three days. A lot of guys haven’t been able to hold onto the lead this year. It’s tough. It’s that final round pressure. Everything is going through your head. You’re in the spotlight and the guys behind you are trying to get you.

“It’s going to be tough to block that out but I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a lot of fun tomorrow.”

Saturday, Garrigus made his big move in a nine-hole stretch starting at the par-five fourth and extending through the par-four 12th. He played those nine holes in 29 strokes to go from 10-under to 16-under. From there he made six consecutive pars to end his round.

His only spot of potential trouble came on the par-four 18th when he hit a huge 290-yard three-iron off the tee that went through the fairway and came to rest inches from the bridge that crosses a winding stream. After getting a ruling, Garrigus decided to play the ball rather than take a penalty and a drop.

“I had to knife it out of that lie,” he said. “If I hit it a millimetre fat, I break my wrist. I was really scared to even do that. I was afraid of topping the ball because I didn’t want to take any grass. I clipped the ball about an eighth of an inch under the surface.

“When I hit the ball, it felt like the ball hit the bridge and kind of popped up in the air. It didn’t look like it on TV but I know either my club or the ball hit the bridge.”

Still it carried just short of the green and he got that ball up and down for 64.

In most cases in a national championship, par is a good score. Garrigus, one of the PGA Tour’s longest hitters, knows par won’t get it done.

“I have to make birdies. I think I’m going to have to get to 21-under, which is crazy to say at this golf course and in a national open, but that’s the way the course is playing.”

 


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