National Junior Skills Challenge crowns eight champions at TPC Toronto
CHRIS HUMENIUK OF TPC TORONTO, GIRLS 9-11 CHAMPION ALEXIS CARD, LAURENCE APPLEBAUM OF GOLF CANADA (JEFF VOGAN/ GOLF CANADA)
The 12th edition of the Junior Skills Challenge National Event is in the books.
Played at the picturesque TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley in Caledon, Ont., a selection of top Canadian junior golfers showcased their skills in one of Golf Canada’s signature events. In partnership with the PGA of Canada and Cobra-Puma Golf, this event saw participating golfers compete in putting, chipping, and driving competitions. It culminates a year-long process, which consisted of 80 qualifying events across Canada and 1,500 junior golfers.
The winners of the Junior Skills Challenge National Event received prizing courtesy of Cobra-Puma Golf with the winners of the 15 to 18 age groups receiving exemptions into their local NextGen Championship in 2022.
Below are the winners in each of the age groups:
Boys 8 and under:
Carrick Frizzell (Hartlen Point Golf Club) captured the Boys 8 and under title honours. Hailing from Halifax, N.S., Frizzell recorded a score of 140. South Surrey, B.C. native Benjamin Hannela (Peace Portal Golf Club & Langley Junior Development Program) finished second posting 100 while Borden Nicholson of Brule Point Golf Course placed third with a score of 80.
Girls 8 and under:
Four participants competed in the Girls 8 and under division. Emily Joy (The Glencoe Golf & Country Club) of Calgary finished in first place with a score of 115, dominating the putting portion with a 40 on the 5-feet and 30 on the 10-feet.
Eily Kim (Pitt Meadows Golf Club) of Burnaby, B.C., placed second, with a total of 100. Kim, like Joy, also had a strong putting performance, posting a 40 on the 10-feet competition.
McKinley Stewart (Sawmill Golf Course) of Fenwick, Ont., placed third (75) while Barrie, Ont., native Brynlee Chappell (Vespra Hills Golf Club) finished fourth (65).
Boys 9 to 11:
One of the closest competitions during the Junior Skills Challenge was the Boys 9 to 11 division. Calgary native Luke MacDonald (The Glencoe Golf & Country Club) secured the title with a 185 score, thanks in large part to his driving (multiple 30 scores) and putting (40 on the 5-feet).
Noah Moreau (Club de golf Lotbinière) of Saint Gilles, Que., placed second, only 20 points shy of first with a score of 165. Dutton, Ont., product Andrew Sudicky finished with 100+ points in third, recording a score of 115.
Girls 9 to 11:
Former Drive, Chip and Putt champion Alexis Card (Galt Country Club) continued her strong play with a complete performance, winning the Girls 9 to 11 division with a score of 205. The Cambridge, ON native shined in the driving portion of the event, posting 30+ point scores in the first, second and third driving competitions.
Claira Frizzell (Hartlen Point Golf Club) also shined with her driving, finishing in second place (145). Brooke Halbauer (Leduc Golf Club) of Edmonton, Alta., placed third registering 100 points.
Jager Pain (Eagles Nest Golf Club) recorded the best score out of any golfer at the Junior Skills Challenge on Sunday, posting a score of 265. Winner of the 2018 MJT Ontario Series tournament, Pain delivered impressive scores in the driving and putting portions, recording 30 and above with the driver and all ’40s with the putter.
Robin Benoit (Golf Saint-Prime sur le Lac) placed second with a score of 160 while Calgary, Alta., native Andrew Leon (Lakeside Golf Club) finished third with 120 points.
The Girls 12-14 division came down to the wire, with all four golfers separated by just 25 points.
Tatum Lohnes (Osprey Ridge Golf Club) came out on top with 160, which included a 40 on the 5-feet putting portion. Sitting in second just five points back of Lohnes was Claire Hu (Whitlock Golf and Country Club), who demonstrated her impressive driving abilities with two scores in the 30’s.
Just 20 points back of first, Sophie Dhaliwal (Wingfield Golf Club) placed third with a score of 140. Rosemere, Que., native Alexandra Botsis (Club de Golf Rosemere) finished fourth recording 135 points.
Like Jager Pain in the Boys 12-14 category, John Kingdon (Sawmill Golf Course) had multiple 40 scores en route to winning the Boys 15-18 competition. The Grimsby, Ont., native recorded scores of 40 in two of the driving events and the 5-feet putting competition. Last season, Kingdon won two tournaments on the Golf Ontario circuit; the US Kids Niagara—Southbrook and U15 NDJT Bridgewater.
Finishing second was Jackson Wingert (The Willow’s Golf & Country Club) with a score of 175. Toronto amateur Griffin Patterson (Centennial Park Golf Course) placed third with 140 points.
Fresh off of winning the 2021 Ontario Juvenile (U17) Girls Championship Title in Windsor, Ont., Joline Troung (Trafalgar Golf & Country Club) captured top honours in the Girls 15-18 event at the Junior Skills Challenge. The Mississauga, Ont., native posted a score of 230, the best among the Canadian girls competing at TPC Toronto. Troung’s best individual score was a 40 in the 5-feet putting competition.
In second place was Ava MacDonald (Antigonish Golf Club) with a score of 175. MacDonald, like Troung, also recorded a 40 in the 5-feet putting portion.
Sarah Maude Lefebvre (Golf Saint-Prime sur le Lac) placed third posting 115 points. The St-Prime, Que., native showcased her powerful driver, recording a 40 in the second driving event.
For more information on the Junior Skills Challenge National Event, click here.
Golf pioneer and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member Jocelyne Bourassa passes away at 74
JOCELYNE BOURASSA (BERNARD BRAULT/ GOLF CANADA)
Golf Canada and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum are sad to report the passing of Jocelyne Bourassa.
The Quebec golf legend was a pioneer and inspiration to young female golfers across the country for close to 60 years.
“I wouldn’t be here and able to talk about my career without Jocelyne,” said Lorie Kane who won four times on the LPGA Tour and was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.
“When I decided to turn pro in 1993 she was working with du Maurier to establish the du Maurier series so I was able to learn how to be a pro from one of the best.”
Kane said the lessons included dealing with sponsors and how to give clinics and how to make the game fun on the corporate level.
“All of those things helped elevate me to who I am today,” she says. “I think it was my second tournament I played in that series I was pretty nervous about how I might be accepted or treated and Jocelyne made a point of coming over to me and telling me I was welcome and that if I ever needed advice she was there for me.”
During her amateur career in the 1960s and 70s Bourassa won three Quebec Junior Championships (1963, 1964 and 1965) and four Amateur Championships (1963, 1969, 1970 and 1971).
She also won the Canadian Women’s Amateur in 1965 and again in 1971 and then turned pro the following year.
“She and I went head-to-head a lot as junior players,” says Sandra Post who has fond memories of her follow Canadian Golf Hall of Famer.
“We were competitors back then but as the years went on we became very good friends. She was so much fun to be around. Very popular and very talented.”
Bourassa joined the LPGA Tour in 1972 and won their Rookie of the Year award. That helped her garner the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award that year as Canada’s best female athlete.
The Shawinigan, Que., native was also named to the Order of Canada in 1972.
Her biggest professional victory came the following year when she captured the inaugural La Canadienne at the Municipal Golf Club in Montreal.
No other Canadian was able to win the Canadian Women’s Open until Brooke Henderson’s victory 45 years later in Regina.
Bourassa’s eight-year LPGA Tour career was cut short by injuries but she began a second career immediately by becoming the du Maurier Classic’s executive director.
Post says it was Bourassa who helped make that event one of the most popular on the LPGA Tour with the players.
“They updated the accommodations, and the hospitality wanting the players to have a great experience,” said Post. “At that time they were really cutting edge.”
Bourassa was active in helping promote golf in Quebec at all levels and served on the Quebec Golf Hall of Fame Committee from 2011 to 2019.
Bourassa was inducted into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Quebec Golf Hall of Fame in 1996 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
The Golf Journalists Association of Canada honoured her in 2014 with their highest honour, the Dick Grimm Award, for a lifetime of service to the game.
“This is a sad day for Canadian golf,” said Meggan Gardner, head of Heritage Services for Golf Canada. “Jocelyne Bourassa was Canada’s first golfer to win an LPGA event in their home country but she took her national pride to the next level by helping to develop a competitive tournament series for women.
“Outside of her playing record, which is very impressive, she was a great mentor to golfers of all levels. Her legacy will continue to shine for many years to come.”
Bourassa, who was 74, had been battling dementia for several years.
OAKVILLE, ON – Due to interprovincial travel restrictions and other complexities related to COVID-19, Golf Canada has announced additional changes to its championship schedule for the 2021 season.
Provincial restrictions had previously forced the cancellation of U.S. Open Local and Final Qualifiers, in addition to the NextGen Pacific, NextGen Western, and NextGen Ontario Championships. With continued pandemic-related uncertainty, the remaining NextGen Championships – NextGen Prairie (Quarry Oaks, June 10-13), NextGen Quebec (Club de Golf Hemmingford, June 27-30), and NextGen Atlantic (Dundarave Golf Course, July 12-15) – will also be cancelled and the 2021 NextGen National Junior Orders of Merit will not be awarded. In some cases, these NextGen events would have conflicted with provincial junior championships around Canada that are being delayed and rescheduled.
The two NextGen Fall Series Championships in September will proceed as scheduled. Each field will feature 99 junior boys and girls and exemptions into the 2022 Canadian Junior Championships will be awarded.
NextGen Fall Series East | September 16-19 | Hollinger Golf Club, Timmins, Ont.
NextGen Fall Series West | September 23-26 | Myrtle Point Golf Club, Powell River, BC
Golf Canada National Amateur Championships are still scheduled to proceed but will only move forward after approval from regional and provincial health authorities. Operational plans for amateur competitions have been adjusted to incorporate rigorous health and safety protocols. Final decisions about the feasibility of conducting national championships will be made approximately four to six weeks prior to the start of each championship. The safety of championship competitors, tournament staff, volunteers, and host site members will remain the top priority guiding these decisions.
At this time, Golf Canada is able to announce the following changes to its National Amateur Championship schedule:
Interprovincial team competitions that are usually played concurrently with national championships will not be contested in 2021. The increased complexity associated with team competitions – including group travel and the involvement of non-playing team captains – will not allow for them to proceed this year.
The Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship will move one week later in July and is now scheduled to be hosted by Edmonton Petroleum Golf & Country Club in Edmonton, Alta. from July 26-30. The Canadian Women’s Amateur was last held in Edmonton in 1993. The previously scheduled host, The Royal Montreal Golf Club, has agreed to welcome this national championship in 2025 or 2026, after hosting the Presidents Cup in 2024.
The Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship will remain in its current date and is now scheduled to be hosted at the Ambassador Golf Club in Windsor, Ont. from August 1-5. The championship—which was previously contested at two courses with a 264-player field—will be reduced to a 156-player field and be contested at one course. The previously scheduled hosts, Le Club Laval-sur-le-Lac and Club de Golf Saint-Raphaël, will explore the possibility of hosting the championship in a future year.
The Canadian Junior Girls Championship will move one week earlier and is now scheduled to be played at Leduc Golf Club in Leduc, Alta. from July 19-23. The previously scheduled host, Club de Golf Sainte-Marie will play host to this championship in 2025 or 2026.
The Canadian Men’s Senior Championship is now scheduled to be contested at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie, Qué. from September 20-24. The previously scheduled host, Ken-Wo Golf Club in New Minas, N.S. will host in 2025.
The Canadian University/College Championship has been postponed to October. A host course and date will be confirmed in the near future.
The Canadian Junior Boys Championship will remain at Club de Golf La Vallée du Richelieu in Sainte-Julie, Qué. from August 8-12. The Canadian Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship and the Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur & Senior Championship will also remain as scheduled. Fort McMurray Golf Club will host the men from August 23-27 and Golf Château-Bromont will host the women from August 30-September 2.
Passing of Guy Bernier: “Thank you for helping the industry grow”.
It is with great regret before the long weekend that the Québec golf world learned of the death of Guy Bernier, after a very courageous fight against cancer.
In his case, the word courage in recent years is fully warranted. He was 67 years old and had been retired for two years from Golf Canada.
Guy Bernier worked at the national sport federation as the regional director for Québec. He succeeded Rémi Bouchard after Bouchard became a full-time pro.
His mandate was to maintain the presence of Golf Canada in the 325 clubs of the province, which his personality allowed him to do and succeed.
The ambassador role was a second career for Guy Bernier, his first very successful one having been in equipment sales.
You probably had some of his equipment in your bag as well since he was associated with two winning brands, first with Spalding Top Flite before becoming Mr. Callaway in 1981 for 18 years before running his own agency.
This was the era of Michel Norman Sr., Helene Norris, Russell Campbell, Richard Dufresne and Max Oxford and company, before the advent of big box stores and internet shopping, when he had to visit the pros all over the province and Ottawa area in their stores several times a year – which created a deep bond.
The many messages of sympathy on social media show the level of appreciation that he enjoyed.
Golf Canada also published the following statement:
“We pass along our sincere condolences to the family & friends of our dear friend and former colleague Guy Bernier. He was a highly respected contributor to our sport, a gentleman in his dealings as our Regional Director in Quebec, a passionate enthusiast of the game & a friend to many across the golf community. #RIP”
Our condolences to Guy Bernier’s wife and two boys.
Conners keeps it as stress free as possible for PGA lead
KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 20: Corey Conners of Canada plays his shot from the seventh tee during the first round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course on May 20, 2021 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – Amid the wind and the havoc at Kiawah Island, there was a semblance of simplicity to the way Corey Conners navigated his way around the Ocean Course for a 5-under 67 and a two-shot lead Thursday in the PGA Championship.
He birdied all the par 5s. He made a couple of long putts for birdie. He dropped only one shot. The scorecard alone made it look like a walk on the beach.
It just didn’t feel that way.
“I’d say it’s impossible to be stress-free around this golf course,” Conners said. “You can’t fall asleep out there on any holes. It’s very challenging. I was fortunate to have a good day. Made it as least stressful as possible on myself.”
With a stiff wind into his face for his last five holes, the 29-year-old Canadian played the tough closing stretch in 2 under, one of those birdies a 55-foot putt from just short of the green.
He led by two shots over a half-dozen players. That group included Brooks Koepka, who started his day with a double bogey and stayed largely out of trouble the rest of the way; and Cameron Davis, who overcame a triple bogey on the sixth hole.
Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland, Aaron Wise and Sam Horsfield also were at 69. The seven players to break 70 were the fewest for the opening round of the PGA Championship since there were five at Hazeltine in 2002.
No one needed them like Koepka, a major presence when conditions are severe. One hole into this major, he had reason to be more worried about his brain than his ailing right knee.
His opening tee shot on the 10th hole at Kiawah Island was struck poorly and didn’t quite clear a waste area. Koepka tried to do too much from a soft lie in the sand and barely got it out. It led to a double bogey, and the toughest part of the Ocean Course was still to come.
But this is a major, and this is Koepka, and that’s when he’s at his best. He knuckled down from that mess by running off six birdies the rest of the way.
“You can’t do that stuff if you want to win. You’ve just got to be more focused,” said Koepka, who has played only twice in the last three months because of surgery to repair ligaments in his knee. “I don’t know if that’s a lack of not playing or what. It was just stupid. I was able to recover, I guess.”
So did 50-year-old Phil Mickelson, who had four bogeys through six holes and nothing but birdies and pars the rest of the way to join the large group at 70 that included defending champion Collin Morikawa and former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland.
More telling were those on the other side of par, some of whom will be scrambling to make it to the weekend.
Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world in the midst of his worst stretch in nearly two years, took a double bogey from a wild tee shot on the front nine and a double bogey on the 18th for a 76. He’s in jeopardy of missing the cut in consecutive majors in the same year for the first time in his career.
Justin Thomas took double bogey on the 18th hole in the morning and two holes later sent a sand shot over the green and just into a hazard for another 6 on the par-5 second. He had a 75.
Rory McIlroy, coming off a victory at Quail Hollow two weeks ago, sent his opening tee shot into a water hazard. He salvaged a bogey, but certainly not his round. McIlroy made bogey on three of the par 5s for a 75, his worst start ever in a PGA Championship.
Jordan Spieth, who needs a victory to complete the career Grand Slam, shot 73.
The PGA of America moved up tee boxes, as expected, to account for the wind. The course played to 7,660 yards – 178 yards shorter than the scorecard – though that didn’t make it easy. Thomas, for one, still hit 7-wood into the 214-yard 17th.
John Daly was among 12 players who shot in the 80s. On the 30-year anniversary of his PGA Championship victory at Crooked Stick, he shot 85.
There were birdies to be had, and mistakes to be made, and Martin Laird was example of both. So wild was his round that he he made bogey on No. 12, ran off four straight birdies and then closed with two bogeys. That added to a 70, not a bad day’s work.
“I kind of went out with the mindset this week, even though it’s hard, don’t give the course too much respect,” Laird said. “You still have to take on shots when you have the chance. When I had a spot where I could go at the flag, I was making sure I kept doing it and hit a lot of really nice shots and managed to make some birdies.
“You’re going to hit bogeys on this golf course,” he said. “It’s nice when you can throw in a bunch of birdies, too.”
Finally heeled from a left knee injury, Koepka injured ligaments in his right knee in March and has played only twice since then, the Masters and last week in Dallas.
He began with a poor 3-wood on No. 10 that didn’t clear the waste area. He took on too much with a soft lie in the sand and barely got it out, leading to a double bogey. But he didn’t flinch and had few complaints about his start.
“It’s a major. I’m going to show up. I’m ready to play,” he said. “I love it when it’s difficult. I think that’s why I do so well in the majors. I just know mentally I can grind it out.”
Canadians Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., and Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., are also in the field. Hughes shot a 75 and Hadwin shot a 77.
Golf Canada’s latest app update includes games and enhanced course lookup
Golf Canada has dropped an app update that is sure to get golfers pumping their fists!
Just in time for the 2021 golf season, the latest version of Golf Canada’s app now features the ability to set up Match Play, Skins of Stroke Play games against friends using Gross or Net scoring.
Put the pencil down and forget about dotting the scorecard. You no longer need to worry about who gets strokes on what hole. The Golf Canada app has you covered.
Plus, users can discover new places to play using a revamped course finder tool. The new look-up functionality allows golfers to search for courses using criteria like number of holes, type of facility (private, public, semi-private) and ease of walking, among many others.
The app is also helping golfers get better connected with their favourite facilities – users can look up clubs who are specifically offering promotions.
Save time and the hassle of setting up matches with your buddies and get the newest version of the Golf Canada app, available starting April 5, 2021.
These new Golf Canada App features are in addition to those users already enjoy, like real-time course GPS data and game tracking.
Don’t play another round until you download the latest version of this app.
Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate 50th anniversary in 2021
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum is inviting Canadians and golf enthusiasts to help celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021 by weighing in on the 50 most influential moments in Canadian golf.
The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame enlisted the support of golf leaders, media, and historians to help create a list of the 50 most influential moments in Canadian golf history. The moments will be showcased online and Canadians are invited to share in the history and vote on their favourite moments.
The 10 most moments receiving the most votes will be showcased on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 during the RBC Hall of Fame 50thAnniversary Gala presented by Nike Golf. The virtual gala celebration will take place on what would have been RBC Hall of Fame Day during the RBC Canadian Open which was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following the virtual gala, the top moments will also be celebrated through social channels through the end of the 2021 season.
“Canada’s storied golf history is marked by the signature accomplishments of so many talented legends of our sport and the Top-50 Most Influential Moments voting celebration invites Canadians to share in the moments they feel are most meaningful,” said Golf Canada Director of Heritage Services Meggan Gardner. “While we won’t be able to celebrate in person, the virtual RBC Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Gala presented by Nike Golf lets us pivot to invite more golf enthusiasts to be a part of the celebration.”
The virtual gala will feature a video showcase of the top-10 greatest moments in Canadian golf as well as interviews with golfers or individuals connected to the moments. The gala will be co-hosted by a pair of honoured members – TSN golf personality Bob Weeks and former LPGA Tour player Gail Graham.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, an online auction is currently underway to raise legacy funding for the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum through the Heritage Fund of the Golf Canada Foundation.
Founded in 1971, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame began honour the legends of our sport, beginning with the inaugural induction class that included Ada Mackenzie, George Lyon, Charles Murray, Marlene Streit, George Cumming, and Sandy Somerville. To date, 83 honoured members and their accomplishments as players and builders of the game are showcased in the Hall of Fame and Museum along with history, innovations, and standout moments through the storied history of golf in Canada.
JOIN IN CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CANADIAN GOLF HALL OF FAME
To vote on the Top-50 Most Influential Moments in Canadian golf, click here.
To participate in the Canadian golf heritage online auction, click here.
Golf Canada and COBRA PUMA GOLF extend junior golf partnership
AURORA, ON - Aug 18, 2019 : 2019 Future Links Junior Skills Challenge National Event.
Golfers participate in the putting portion of the 2019 Future Links Junior Skills Challenge National Event.
(Photo by Christian Bender / Golf Canada)
Golf Canada (April 27, 2021) – Golf Canada and COBRA PUMA GOLF announced today a four-year extension of their partnership in junior golf and the Golf Canada Junior Skills Challenge through 2024.
Through their deeper partnership, PUMA Golf becomes the official headwear, apparel, and footwear partner of the Golf Canada Junior Skills Challenge, an interactive program focused on developing the key golf skills of putting, chipping and driving. COBRA Golf will also become the official golf equipment partner of the Golf Canada Junior Skills Challenge.
“COBRA PUMA GOLF has been an incredibly strong supporter of junior golf in this country and we are thrilled to extend our partnership,” said Golf Canada Chief Commercial Officer John Sibley. “Both high-performance brands, COBRA and PUMA, have aligned well with our efforts to build excitement through competition among the country’s top young players and we are excited to work together to identify emerging talent and enhance the local, provincial and national components of the Junior Skills Challenge.”
The agreement extends COBRA PUMA GOLF’s long-term support of junior golf in Canada, which dates back to the 2014 season with the game’s National Sport Federation.
“We are proudly extending our partnership with Golf Canada to deliver a national junior program that helps cultivate our next generation of great Canadian golfers,” said Dwayne Boecker, Head of Golf at COBRA PUMA GOLF – Canada. “The on-course skills training and coast-to-coast engagement supports our commitment to provide Canadian youth opportunities to learn to play.”
The Junior Skills Challenge unites a network of local Junior Skills events hosted at golf facilities across the country. An online National Leaderboard allows site coordinators and PGA of Canada professionals to upload players’ scores to track improvement and rank players by age group and scores.
COBRA PUMA GOLF will provide regional and national event prizing in addition to outfitting each of the provincial and national Junior Skills Challenge event coordinators.
The 2021 Golf Canada Junior Skills Challenge program will begin in May with the top ranked qualifiers on the national leaderboard from July 19, 2019 to August 3, 2021 (cut-off date) will be invited to compete in the National Final held in Ontario later this fall. Provincial qualifiers will be open events in 2021 to allow participants to qualify directly into the Junior Skills National Final.
Corey Conners sits 6th at Masters after hole-in-one; Matsuyama leads
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 10: Corey Conners of Canada reacts on the sixth green after hitting a hole-in-one during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Hideki Matsuyama showed he could handle Augusta National when he first showed up as a 19-year-old amateur. Ten years later, the Japanese star put himself on the cusp of a green jacket Saturday at the Masters.
In a stunning turnaround after storms doused the course, Matsuyama had four birdies, an eagle and a superb par at the end of a 7-under 65, turning a three-shot deficit into a four-shot lead as he tries to become the first Japanese player to win a major.
“This is a new experience for me being a leader going into the final round in a major,” Matsuyama said. “I guess all I can do is relax and prepare well and do my best.”
Matsuyama was at 11-under 205, and no one could stay with him after the delay. It lasted 1 hour, 18 minutes because of dangerous weather and just enough rain fell that crusty Augusta National was a little more forgiving.
He hit what he said was his worst shot of the day right before the delay, a tee shot into the trees on the right. He punched a 7-iron out to 20 feet for birdie and was on his way.
The break brought the Masters to life, and at times it was hard to keep up.
Xander Schauffele ran in a 60-foot eagle putt across the 15th green to momentary join a four-way tie for the lead. Seconds later, Justin Rose holed a 25-foot birdie putt back on the par-3 12th to regain the lead. That lasted as long as it took Matsuyama to rap in his 5-foot eagle putt on the 15th to take the lead for good.
The entire sequence took no more than two minutes.
But after that, no one could catch Matsuyama. When the round ended, Schauffele (68), Rose (72), Marc Leishman (70) and Masters rookie Will Zalatoris (71) were all at 7-under 209.
Canadian Corey Conners was close behind at 6-under after shooting a 68. It was a mixed day for the Listowel, Ont., native. After a bogey on the fifth hole, he shot a hole-in-one on the sixth. Conners had five birdies and three bogeys on the day.
Fellow Canadian Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., recorded his third-straight even-par score to sit in a tie for 21st.
Jordan Spieth was within two shots of the lead despite a double bogey on the seventh hole, but he couldn’t keep pace and shot 72 to fall six shots behind.
Matsuyama will play in the final group with Schauffele, a comfortable pairing. Schauffele’s mother was raised in Japan and he speaks enough Japanese to share a few laughs with Matsuyama during Saturday’s pairing.
Matsuyama will play in the final group with Schauffele, a comfortable pairing. Schauffele’s mother was raised in Japan and he speaks enough Japanese to share a few laughs with Matsuyama during Saturday’s pairing.
That won’t eliminate all the pressure. His lone shot at a major was at Quail Hollow in the 2017 PGA Championship when he was one shot behind with three holes to play and missed a crucial par putt. He was in tears after that round, a player under enormous pressure in golf-mad Japan.
Matsuyama wasn’t the first Japanese star of his generation _ that was close friend Ryo Ishikawa _ but he is by far the most accomplished. Matsuyama has 14 worldwide wins, five on the PGA Tour. He has reached as high as No. 2 in the world.
He won the Asia-Pacific Amateur in 2010 that earned him a spot in the Masters the following year. He was the only amateur to make the cut, finishing on the same score (1 under) as defending champion Phil Mickelson.
A decade later, he is on the cusp of history. The only other player from an Asian country to win a men’s major is Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
Matsuyama wouldn’t have believed he could leave Augusta National on Saturday night with a four-shot lead. But he knew he was playing well, and he showed it. On a course that has played difficult all week, he delivered the first bogey-free round of the week.
The signature shot was his 5-iron to a left pin to 5 feet for eagle. Equally stellar was an 8-iron to the front right shelf on the par-3 16th to 5 feet for a birdie, and then his pitching wedge to 10 feet behind the hole on the 17th. His work still wasn’t through.
From a fairway bunker on the 18th, Matsuyama sent it soaring over the green and up the walkway toward the clubhouse, some 25 yards to the hole with little margin for error with a back pin. His chip bounced with enough spin to trickle out to 3 feet for par.
It was reminiscent of Spieth closing out his third round in 2015 with a tough par save on the 18th to take a four-shot lead into the final round. That’s what Matsuyama has on Sunday, with a nation watching.
He rarely can go anywhere on the PGA Tour without a dozen or more Japanese media following. Their numbers are limited this year because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“Being in front of the media is still difficult. It’s not my favourite thing to do,” Matsuyama said through his interpreter. “It’s been a lot less stress for me. I’ve enjoyed this week.”
A victory would give Japan a sweep this week. Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last Saturday.
Canadian Alexis Card wins girls 7-9 division at Drive, Chip and Putt Championship
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 04: Alexis Card, participant in the girls 7-9, poses with her first place overall trophy during the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club on April 04, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga – Canadian girls continued their success at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship once again on Sunday with a victory from Cambridge, Ont., native Alexis Card.
Card, 8, won the girls 7-9 division with a total of 23 points for a two-point victory over fellow Canadian Anna Wu of Victoria, B.C. Card impressed getting full points in both the driving and putting categories (10) while rounding it out with three points at the chipping station.
It was Wu stole the show at the chipping station, chipping one in and giving off a memorable reaction which caught the attention of star Phil Mickelson.
With the win, Card becomes the fourth Canadian (all females) to win a Drive, Chip and Putt title in as many years. Savannah Grewal (Mississauga, Ont.) won in 2017, followed by Vanessa Borovilos (Toronto) in 2018 and Nicole Gal (Oakville, Ont.) in 2019.
Cole Roberts of Oshawa, Ont., was the lone male to play in the event, finishing in 7th place in the boys 7-9 division.