Brandt Snedeker fired a nine-under par 63 on Saturday to take the lead at the Canadian Open, where overnight leader Hunter Mahan withdrew to be at the birth of his first child.
Mahan, who led the US$5.6 million PGA Tour event by two strokes after Friday’s second round, was on the practice range prepping for his weather-delayed third-round start when he received word that his wife, Kandi, had gone into labor. He departed right away for Dallas.
In his absence, Snedeker stepped up with a bogey-free round that gave him a 14-under par total of 202 and a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s David Lingmerth.
Lingmerth recovered from an opening bogey to post a seven-under 65, capped by an eagle at the par-five 18th.
Americans Matt Kuchar (64) and Jason Bohn (66) were tied for third on 204, while a group of five players on 205 included Dustin Johnson — who climbed up the leaderboard with a 63 — and John Merrick, who followed up a course record-equaling 62 on Friday with a 72 thanks to an eagle at the last.
England’s Greg Owen (67) and Americans Kyle Stanley (66) and Charley Hoffman (67) were also in the group on 205.
Snedeker, who won at Pebble Beach in February, but has battled to regain his form after a rib injury that followed, did not know Mahan had pulled out until he reached the seventh tee, when he noticed Mahan’s name had disappeared from the leaderboard.
LEFT WIDE OPEN
“That just kind of left the tournament wide open,” said Snedeker, the reigning FedEx Cup champion who had already birdied four of the first six holes, thanks in large part to solid putting on the course’s rain-softened greens.
He arrived at the par-five 18th needing a birdie to match the course record of 62 — most recently equaled by Merrick a day before.
A tee shot into the left rough ended his record bid, but a par was enough for the lead.
‘REALLY GOOD REASON’
However, Snedeker, who is a father himself, said he did not blame Mahan for abandoning the tournament.
“I wish them the best,” he said of the Mahans. “I know they’re probably both a little distraught that he’s not here, but this is the best part of their lives ... The next 72 hours is going to be so much fun for them.”
Johnson, who had played alongside Mahan in the first two rounds, agreed.
“It’s a good thing he is going,” Johnson said. “You never want to see someone withdraw, but there is a really good reason.”