Jared du Toit was in position to become the first Canadian to win the Canadian Open in 62 years — and the first amateur to break through on the PGA Tour in 25 seasons.
Brandt Snedeker was in a little better position. And U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson was right there, too.
“I think I’m going to be the most-hated man in Canada tomorrow, but it’s going to be a lot of fun trying to figure it out,” said Snedeker, the 2013 winner at Glen Abbey who eagled the par-5 18th on Saturday for a 6-under 66 and a one-stroke lead over du Toit and Johnson.
Du Toit matched Snedeker with an eagle on 18, holing a 40-footer for a 70. On Friday, du Toit rebounded from a triple bogey and bogey with three straight birdies.
“I’ve never kind of been in this kind of pressure, this atmosphere before,” said du Toit, an Arizona State senior from Kimberley, British Columbia. “I’m here having fun and trying to go and play golf. It hasn’t set in so far, but loving every minute of it.”
Pat Fletcher, born in England, was the last Canadian winner in 1954 at Point Grey in Vancouver, British Columbia. Carl Keffer is the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Albert Murray, a Canadian also born in England, won in 1908 and 1913. Phil Mickelson was the last amateur winner on the tour in the 1991 Northern Telecom Open.
“I’m honestly just out here to have some fun and enjoy the atmosphere,” du Toit said. “Obviously, I want to play well tomorrow, but it’s kind of my first go at it. Win or lose, I’m happy with the way this week’s gone.”
He has Snedeker’s attention.
“He’s great,” Snedeker said. “For a 21-year-old kid, to be playing golf here is awesome, let alone to do it in your national open. I mean, I can’t imagine the nerves this kid has to be playing as great of golf as he has. I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’m looking forward to playing with him, and I’m going to do everything I can to help him have a great day tomorrow.”
Snedeker overpowered the 18th, hitting a 378-yard drive and 121-yard approach to set up the 6-footer.
“Now I know what it feels like to be Dustin Johnson,” Snedeker said about his drive on 18. “Just had downwind, greens and fairways are so firm, if you get it. Unfortunately, them being firm, you have about 2 yards to get the ball in the fairway. I hit it right on my line, one of the best swings I’ve made all day. Hit hard and took off. Had a lob wedge into 18, perfect lob wedge, able to hit a good one and rip it in there about 6 feet and make a putt.”
Johnson, tied for the lead with Luke List after each of the first two days, birdied 18 for a 71.
“I had a rough day on the greens,” Johnson said. “It didn’t feel like I was hitting bad putts. I don’t know, ball was not going in the hole. Hit a lot of good shots out there that didn’t end up very good. I still feel like I’m playing well, driving it really well and that’s the big key for me. Tomorrow, hopefully, get some putts to roll in.”
Snedeker had five straight birdies on Nos. 2-6, bogeyed 11 and 15 and birdied the par-5 16th The 35-year-old American won the in February at Torrey Pines for his eighth PGA Tour title.
“I felt comfortable on the greens all week and was hitting my line today,” Snedeker said. “It’s funny, you get a round like today, I had a bunch of putts that were really easy to read. They were edge putts I could be firm with and aggressive with and I was able to take advantage of them.”
Steve Wheatcroft and Alex Cejka were 7 under. Wheatcroft had a 64, and Cejka shot 69.
“I’m excited. I know I’ve been playing really well,” Wheatcroft said. “My swing has really been clicking the last few weeks. I’ve had a miserable year. I just haven’t been able to put anything together. I made some swing changes about a month ago or two weeks ago in Alabama, so I know it’s coming.”
Jon Rahm, du Toit’s former Arizona State teammate, was in the group at 6 under in his fourth start since turning professional. The Spaniard eagled 16 and birdied 18 in a 72.
Matt Kuchar also was 6 under after a 70.
“I was hoping for a big round today, but kind of stalled out just a little bit,” Kuchar said. “Course is tough. I didn’t drive it quite as well as I had first two days, and it’s so crucial, driving it well.”
Top-ranked defending champion Jason Day was tied for 28th at 2 under after a 69. He shot a 76 on Friday after opening with a 69.
“Definitely kept the ball out in front of me today,” Day said. “It was easier obviously today teeing off early. Greens were a lot more receptive. The fairways were a lot more receptive, as well, so they weren’t bouncing into the rough or they weren’t bouncing into the rough over the greens.”
List also was 2 under after a 77. He had a triple bogey and two double bogeys on the back nine.