ANCASTER, Ontario — Robert Garrigus would have made Arnold Palmer proud Saturday at the Canadian Open – for the way he treated the people, and for the scores on his card.
Garrigus combined his power with a couple of timely putts at rain-softened Hamilton for 6-under-par 64, breaking the 54-hole scoring record at golf’s third-oldest championship that was first set more than a half-century ago by Palmer. Equally impressive was what he did when he didn’t even have a club in his hand.
After a routine par on the sixth hole, Garrigus walked over to a volunteer and said, “Thanks for being here.”
After he chunked a wedge into a bunker on the seventh, one of his poorer shots of the third round, he found another volunteer behind the green and said, “Appreciate what you do for us.”
It’s the kind of stuff that made Palmer the King.
“It makes me feel good just to say it,” Garrigus said. “Like I said, it’s on their dime. And we need the fans. We need the volunteers. We need the sponsors, and a lot of guys out there don’t lean that way to thank the volunteers. I’ve had hundreds of volunteers come up to me and say, ‘Thanks for saying thank you.’ That means a lot.”
Now if he can just finish like the King.
Garrigus had a one-shot lead over William McGirt, who played with poise with his name atop the leaderboard for the first time on the weekend at a PGA Tour event. McGirt had 66 and actually lost ground, going from a share of the lead to one-shot behind. He will be in the last group with Garrigus.
Garrigus was at 16-under 194, one shot better than Palmer in 1955 at Weston Golf & Country Club in Toronto, and matched two years ago by Dean Wilson at St. George’s Golf & Country Club, also in Toronto.
“Oops. Sorry, Arnie,” Garrigus said when told about the record.
Palmer, however, went on to win the 1955 Canadian Open for the first of his 62 titles on the PGA Tour. Garrigus will be going for his second win.
Garrigus was fortunate to escape with par, not to mention his health, on the final hole when his 3-iron off the tee ran out 290 yards and just short of the bridge.
Because he was inside the hazard, he couldn’t ground the club and had a rules official make sure the bridge wasn’t beneath the ball. It was a few inches ahead of the ball.
“If I hit it a millimeter fat, I break my wrist,” Garrigus said. “I had to knife it out of that lie and catch part of the bridge, and hopefully the ball gets the top part of the bridge and bounces up. And that’s exactly what I did. I hit it perfect.”
Scott Piercy had 67 and was two shots behind.
Scott Stallings, who won last week in Mississippi, birdied his last two holes for a 63 and was four shots behind, along with former Georgia Bulldog Chris Kirk (63) and Bo Van Pelt (67).
Stallings ended a streak of nine consecutive PGA Tour events in which the 54-hole leader failed to win. The ninth was Ernie Els coming from six shots behind at the British Open. Stalling won later that day.
“A lot of guys haven’t been able to hold leads this year,” said Garrigus, still known for losing a three-shot lead on the final hole in Memphis two years ago.
A victory today by Garrigus would put him in a World Golf Championship next week at Firestone and the Masters Tournament next April.