The Royal Montreal Golf Club in Ile Bizard, Quebec, featured some impeccable course conditions, which allowed for great scoring opportunities, and low numbers were posted from many members of the 2014 RBC Canadian Open's field.
Jim Furyk entered the final round with a commanding lead of 15 under par, and his streak of winless performances this year seemed to be coming to an end. However, after he was plagued by Sunday woes once more, it was not to be.
A surging Tim Clark picked apart the back nine, surpassing Furyk and earning his first tour victory since 2010 in the process.
This improbable finish marked a devastating loss for Furyk, but it gives Clark tremendous momentum going forward. Here's a look at the tournament's final leaderboard and day-by-day recap from Royal Montreal.
Clark didn't exactly light up the par-70 course early and often on Sunday. In fact, he began his final round with an ominous bogey on the par-four first. He did right the ship on the par-five sixth, but that was only good enough to allow him to make the turn with an even-par 35.
That's when he caught fire.
After a par on No. 10, Clark birdied Nos. 11, 12, 14, 15 and 17 en route to a back-nine 30, putting him at five under for the day and 17 under for the tournament. That was just good enough for a victory, as he defeated Furyk by a single stroke.
Not even some unlucky weather could hold back Clark on Sunday, as the PGA Tour tweeted his spot on the course when play was suspended:
Play has been suspended at the @RBCCanadianOpen due to inclement weather. Tim Clark has a 10 footer for birdie at 15 when play resumes.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 27, 2014
Clark's victory was earned off the tee. He finished first in driving accuracy, hitting 83.93 percent of fairways, which led to 72.22 percent of greens in regulation and an exorbitant amount of birdie opportunities.
His accuracy allowed him to finish first in arguably the most important category: bogeys. Through 72 holes, Clark only dropped two shots—a bogey on Friday and another on Sunday, with zero double bogeys or worse for the entire tournament.
That's not to say Furyk wasn't spectacular himself—well, at least through 54 holes.
What was a bigger cause for the tournament's outcome?
Known for his great accuracy off the tee, he was incredibly accurate over the course of the tournament, hitting at least 71 percent of fairways—until Sunday. Over the final 18 holes, Furyk only hit 57.14 percent of fairways, which severely decreased his scoring opportunities.
Still, it came down to the wire for these two players.
Clark's birdie on No. 15 gave him the outright lead, but Furyk continued to battle with a birdie on No. 17. However, Clark equaled that score and went to the 18th hole with a one-stroke advantage.
At this point, Will Gray of the Golf Channel tweeted a reminder of what this could mean for the American Ryder Cup team:
Jim Furyk in the midst of squandering a 3-shot lead down the back nine in Canada. Remember folks, he's a Ryder Cup lock!— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) July 27, 2014
Both players hit the 18th green in regulation, but Furyk's beautiful approach put him about 14 feet from the hole. Clark hit a long putt up nicely to ensure par, and Furyk stood over a putt that would force a playoff.
Unfortunately for the world's No. 10 player, the ball refused to drop and Clark emerged the victor. The Golf Channel's Justin Ray noted how many times Furyk has failed to capitalize on a 54-hole lead:
Jim Furyk: 7th straight time he's failed to convert on 54-hole lead/share on @PGATOUR (3-shot lead is largest lost of career).— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 27, 2014
Golf is extremely mentally taxing, and that must be playing a large role in his struggles by now.
Not only did Clark earn the win, but his score of 17 under tied a tournament record, per PGA Tour Media:
Coming into the RBC Canadian Open, Clark was ranked 153rd in the world. Obviously, his ranking will severely change with this win, but even more importantly, his confidence and momentum will skyrocket at the right time with the PGA Championship right around the corner.
After three days, it seems all but assured that Furyk will win his third title at the event.
The 2006 winner at Hamilton and 2007 at Angus Glen shot his second consecutive bogey-free round Saturday, using five birdies to total 65 and sit atop the leaderboard at 15 under.
Along with posting just one bogey through three rounds, Ray helps to explain why Furyk has been able to distance himself from the pack:
Recipe for Jim Furyk's 3-shot lead: 1st this week in greens hit, approach shot proximity & proximity between 125-150 yards.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 26, 2014
Three shots off the lead and alone in second place is Tim Clark, who also has just a single bogey through Saturday. After two ho-hum scores of 67, the South African shot up the leaderboard after Round 3 thanks to a 64.
Will Furyk score his third triumph at the event?
"It's always great to get off to a good start," said Clark—per The Canadian Press—who began his round with a birdie and eagle and added three more birdies in the final six holes. "Saturdays are normally the toughest day to score on, so you dream of a start like that."
Clark easily had the top highlight of the day by holing out from the fairway for eagle on the second hole.
With Ray on the assist once more, it's easy to see that Clark is the top threat to Furyk's third title:
Tim Clark in with 64 - over last 6 rounds dating to JD Classic, Clark is combined -31, only 2 bogeys, 96-for-101 on putts inside 10 feet.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 26, 2014
Stanley continues to hang around in third place five strokes off the top mark after a 68 kept him afloat. American Jamie Lovemark took advantage of a sloppy field and shot four birdies before a bogey on the final hole to end with a 67, placing him six shots back.
Other notables include DeLaet, who imploded after Friday's 63 with a 70, very much putting his bid to become the first Canadian to win the event in 60 years in jeopardy. Equally disappointing was Petrovic, who entered the day tied for the lead but fell to seven off thanks to a two-over 72.
Tee times for the final round have been bumped to 8 ET to accommodate for inbound thunderstorms.
One day removed from finishing three shots off the lead, Furyk, the two-time defending champ at the event, rode a record performance to the top of the leaderboard Friday.
A bogey-free 63, with seven total birdies and four in a row on the back nine, saw him jump 15 spots, although he wasn't alone in the feat.
Graham DeLaet bounced back from a 69 Thursday with a matching 63 on nine birdies and two bogeys—boosting him 41 spots up the leaderboard.
Matt Kuchar was the final leg of that epic trio and shot a 65 to rest four shots off the lead, and as Golf Channel's Jason Sobel notes, all three combined for quite the performance:
Group of Jim Furyk, Graham DeLaet and Matt Kuchar had a scoring average of 63.67 today with 7.3 birdies per man. Oh, Canada. Low, Canada.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 25, 2014
“When you see putts rolling in from everywhere like it was in our group, you just feel like putting’s easy or something and you just start holing them,” said DeLaet, via The Canadian Press. “It was fun."
Joining Furyk for the lead is Petrovic, who didn't post another 64, but his 66 with five birdies once again has him right where he wants to be. He continues to be the most interesting story of all at the tournament, as he was surfing on Tuesday and didn't have a practice round before taking the proceedings by storm as an alternate.
Graeme McDowell was another big mover on the day, a bogey-free 65 placing him three off the lead and well into contention for the final two days. There was no amazing eagle from 213 yards out this time around, but he'll have to settle for being in prime position to take home the crown.
As far as fallers go, Putnam took a tumble down the board and sits at six under par after a 70. Mahan dropped well below the cut line with a 75. Snedeker remained ho-hum about the event and posted another 69 to rest eight shots off the lead.
Like clockwork, things are slowly working themselves in Quebec, with just two players tied for the lead and two more at two shots away. It makes for quite an interesting weekend finale, to say the least.
By the end of Day 1, no player had an outright discernible advantage, and some of the favorites went out and fell flat from the opening hole.
With two players tied at six under par, two one stroke off the lead and a large group two strokes off the lead, the festivities in Quebec have a ton of sorting out to do before Sunday's Round 4 names a winner.
American Kyle Stanley started off hot in the morning and was dangerously close to claiming the day's lead after entering the clubhouse as the leader. He posted his lowest scorecard of the year thanks to five birdies and a lone bogey, good for a 65.
As Golf Channel's Justin Ray details, Stanley's day was one that saw him consistently living on the edge:
Kyle Stanley: missed 8 GIR today & shot 65 with just 1 bogey. How? 7/8 scrambling, 14/14 putting inside 10', 4/5 putting between 10-25'.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 24, 2014
But fellow American Michael Putnam eventually put a damper on Stanley's early-morning rout with a 64 on no bogeys, good for the lowest opening round ever at Royal Montreal.
"I hit a lot of fairways and I hit a lot of greens," Putnam told John Marchesan of The Globe and Mail. "It got windy there this afternoon and it was tough golfing but somehow I was able to keep it in the fairway and take advantage of the soft greens, get a couple shots close and make a couple of five-to-ten foot putts."
Putnam was not alone, though, as yet another American—Tim Petrovic, the seventh alternate—was able to card a 64 of his own thanks to four birdies and an eagle on hole No. 12.
One of tournament's more interesting stories has been the aforementioned Mahan, who was in the driver's seat at the event through two rounds a year ago but was forced to withdraw Saturday morning and catch a flight back to Texas for the birth of his child.
His redemption tour fell a bit short Thursday with a plodding 68, as a pair of birdies on the front nine were extinguished by another pair on the back end, along with two bogeys to sit him at two under par.
Snedeker, another fan favorite and the defending champion, didn't fare much better. Five birdies through the first 12 holes gave way to a pair of bogeys and a double-bogey on 18 before he headed to the clubhouse.
Before his collapse, Snedeker was clearly in championship form once more, as captured by PGA Tour on Twitter:
Speaking of defending champs, two-time winner Jim Furyk fared much better Thursday, finishing three shots out of first place. Matt Kuchar and Graham DeLaet wound up five shots off the lead.
Dustin Johnson, fresh off a tie for 12th place at the Open Championship and some handsome winnings as a result, shot a 74 Thursday with two birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 14 to land at four over par.
The tournament is far from over for those who fell victim to shaky starts in Quebec, as the lead is not even close to safe for those near the top for the time being. With cut lines approaching over the next three days, expect nothing but unpredictable happenings as the best in the world naturally sort out a jumbled leaderboard with no marquee favorite.