For all the fireworks that took place at Glen Abbey during the RBC Canadian Open, it appeared the Jhonattan Vegas’ successful defence of the title he won last year had gone down in flames.
After Charley Hoffman birdied the 72nd hole of the tournament to deadlock the score at 21 under, the two returned to 18 for a playoff in which both ended up in different bunkers.
“I was able to hit a good shot, get a little bit lucky to be honest that it clipped the lip and it went through the green, but if it didn’t clip the lip, it would have been an even better shot because I hit it solid. I hit it really solid,” he said.
“Obviously a little bit of luck, but sometimes you need that to win,” said Vegas, who birdied the extra hole to claim his second consecutive championship in Canada.
“When I heard the clip, because obviously I didn’t see it, I knew that it was probably going to go in the water, because I didn’t know exactly how hard it hit it, but then, when I saw the ball in the air, it was still going really hard and forward,” he said.
“When I saw that it was going forward, I knew that it had a chance to go in, but I knew it was going to be close,” said Vegas.
“The ball could have gone anywhere from there, but you know, like I said, sometimes you have to be aggressive and when you’re that aggressive, sometimes things go your way,” he added.
Aggressive he was on Sunday of a tournament that saw the cut set at four under and the course record tied with a 10-under 62 by Robert Garrigus on Saturday. Despite blustery conditions, there were numbers out there on Sunday.
“You know what? I love the wind. I love playing in the wind and when I saw that it was windy this morning when I came out of my hotel, I knew that it didn’t take that low of a round to win the golf tournament because if conditions were soft like it was on Saturday and no wind, most likely I would have had to shoot nine, 10 under to win,” said Vegas.
“It was still a little bit soft, but with the wind, it probably played a shot or two difference, which makes a big difference at the end of the day,” he said.
Ian Poulter continued a remarkable resurgence by finishing third with a 64 on Sunday, but Vegas finished with a 65 that saw him go bogey-free over the front nine to make the turn at five under.
Pushing that to seven under by the 13th hole, Vegas appeared to be in control going into the final stretch, where he bogeyed 15, birdied 16 and parred his way in from there, while Hoffman birdied two of his last three holes to force the playoff.
“I knew that I had to shoot a good round today to have a chance to win again. I just came out with an aggressive mentality, just feeling really good about my game,” said Vegas.
“When I started making a few birdies, especially the putt for birdie on seven, I started feeling the same chills that I felt last year when I won and I just knew that something good could happen if I kept that going,” he said.
“I stayed aggressive, stayed on that same mind frame and I was able obviously to make some really good putts today and hit some good shots with the bonus on 18 during the playoff,” he added.
Vegas becomes the seventh player to win back-to-back Canadian Opens, although Leo Diegel did it twice in 1924-25 and again in 1928-29. Jim Furyk was the previous back-to-back winner, his triumphs coming in 2006-2007.
Both of Vegas’ wins came at Glen Abbey, but he says the golf course he saw this year was much different.
“It was hard to get used to because even the past previous years, the past two times, 2015 and 2016 that I played here, conditions were really firm, so I was used to hitting all kind of different shots from the tee and this year I had to hit more drivers,” he said.
“It was a whole different mentality that I had to come in and approach on different lines. It was a course that was more gettable, so I knew that from the beginning, I had to stay aggressive because with conditions soft and not much wind, a lot of birdies were going to be there. Obviously, a whole different golf course,” said Vegas.
Mackenzie Hughes won the Rivermead Cup as low Canadian. For more on that, click here.
The final scores are here.