HAMILTON —With four Canadians in the top 10 to start the third round at the RBC Canadian Open, it was another fan favourite who had the round of the day and loudest reception.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy had the galleries buzzing with a 6-under, 64 on moving day, tied for the best round along with American Jonathan Byrd.
The Northern Ireland native, who started Saturday five shots back of the lead, had six birdies in a bogey-free round to give him a share of the lead with Matt Kuchar, and 2012 U.S Open champion Webb Simpson.
A winner of five national opens across the PGA and European Tour, the 30-year-old is making his first appearance at Canada’s national open and complimented the atmosphere set-up.
“I think what they’ve been able to do here is right on the limit of fun but still keeping within the traditions of the game,” said McIlroy, who will be in the final pairing along with Simpson, to close out the tournament Sunday.
“I seem to get pretty good support most places I go, I’m not sure if it’s because of their Irish roots, but for whatever reason they seem to be very vocal out there.
— Marcus Rebelo (@marcusrebelo94) June 8, 2019
Hole 13, known as “The Rink”, is the nosiest part of the Hamilton Golf & Country Club with the tee-box surrounded with the elements of Canada’s national past time, hockey, including the boards where fans continued to drum all day.
Fellow leader Kuchar, who began the day tied for the lead with Scott Brown, shot one-under 69 and was also taken by the tee 13.
“The Rink is completely unique,” said Kuchar during his post-round press conference.
“It’s hard to put it up against other events and I’m guessing having the Raptors doing well is helping — there’s certainly a great vibe out there — it’s been fun to be inside the ropes playing in front of great crowds.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 8, 2019
Fans north of the border Sunday will continue to be out loud and proud, hoping to see the end of one of golf’s longest droughts.
Since Pat Fletcher in 1954, no Canadian has won its national open and Adam Hadwin and a few others have the best chance to erase that.
Hadwin bogeyed the second, but would go on to make four birdies, for a round of 3-under 67, one shot back of the lead.
The Abbotsford, B.C., native paid credit to his calmness and short memory after his blunder on two, which allowed him to have success.
“Sometimes getting bogey like that out of the way early, settles you in a little bit and makes you refocus a little more,” said Hadwin, the highest ranked Canadian on the leaderboard.
“There was lots of golf left. Certainly wasn’t too worried about it.”
Winner of the 2017 Valspar Championship, Hadwin acknowledged the Canadian contingent behind him, especially the reception he and his fellow countrymen got on the 13th.
“That hole is wild, It’s pretty electric.” said Hadwin, after his third round. “The chant that they had going before I hit there off on 13, I would imagine it wasn’t much different for Ben [Silverman], Nick [Taylor], or Mackenzie [Hughes].
Mackenzie Hughes, from nearby Dundas, a 15 minute drive from the golf course, leaves Saturday the same way he started it — four shots back of the lead after he shot 1-under 69.
Hughes still feels great despite not gaining ground on those ahead, and looked to continue to work around the greens where he believes he can improve on.
“Confidence is still high,” said Hughes. “I’m going to go to the putting green and try and sort some things out. Don’t feel like I’m putting terribly, just one time its speed – one time it’s a slight misread.
“I’m just a tick off, but trying to get it sorted out and shoot a low one tomorrow.”
Canadians with an opportunity to end a 65-year drought, and one of the best in the world with a chance to win his sixth national open, fans north of the border can’t ask for anything better Sunday.