OAKVILLE, Ont. – As he made his way up to the 18th green Sunday to a thunderous applause, David Hearn knew his opportunity to make history was nearly extinct.
Needing the unlikely outcome of a holed bunker shot to force a playoff in the RBC Canadian Open, Hearn instead soaked in the moment.
“I’ll always remember that feeling that I had today and the outpouring of support from everybody,” he said. “I gave it my all.”
In the end, that wasn’t quite enough, as Hearn finished two shots behind winner Jason Day with a total of 15-under-par 273 after a round of even-par 72 Sunday at Glen Abbey Golf Club.
That means it’s now 62 years since a Canadian has won his national championship, the last being Pat Fletcher in 1954.
“I came out today with only one mindset, and that was to win the golf tournament,” said Hearn, who started the final round with a two-shot lead. “It hasn’t been done in a long time. I felt like I had the ability to do it today. I didn’t put any extra pressure on myself, but you want to see yourself do well in these situations.”
The inevitable nervousness he was feeling didn’t bother Hearn early, as he birdied the first two holes to reach 17-under and open a three-shot lead.
“I felt pretty comfortable over most shots,” he said. “As comfortable as you can be. … Made a couple birdies right out of the gate, but I wasn’t quite hitting the ball as crisp as I would have liked.”
Hearn’s momentum stalled with a bogey on the par-4 third hole, then he was betrayed by his best friend all week, his putter.
He left seven putts during his final round within six inches of the hole.
“He was playing so good,” said Bubba Watson, Hearn’s playing partner. “He started off hot. There were so many putts that he hit that should have fell in. I don’t know how they stayed out.”
Figuring out the speed of the greens is a classic sign of nerves creeping in, and Hearn admitted that he wasn’t aggressive enough at times.
“The golf course was getting extremely firm and fast out there, “ he said. “It wasn’t quite as much a shootout as maybe it could have been. But I stuck to it.”
Hearn briefly got back into the lead with a 18-foot, left-to-right birdie putt from the fringe on the par-5 13th hole, but then missed backing that up with another one by 5 inches on No. 14.
While he was making pars, Watson and Day were busy making birdies down the closing stretch. By the time he got to the 18th tee, Hearn trailed by one. He was in the fairway when he watched Day pour in a birdie on the par-5, meaning he’d have to reach the green with his second shot and make eagle.
“I hit a 4-iron,” Hearn said. “My intention with that shot was to try and cut it even more. That’s a really hard shot. I’m a draw-ball player for the most part, and that’s a tricky shot for me to play.”
He wasn’t able to pull it off, hitting it left into the bunker.
“That’s what makes champions is hitting shots like that in the right moment,” Hearn said. “I’ll do that one day.”
Hearn now has two top-three finishes on the PGA Tour this month. So even though the disappointment of coming so tantalizing close in his national championship cuts deep, he is confident his moment will soon come.
“I gave myself a chance right until the very end, even though I didn’t quite have my best stuff,” he said. “The support and the way that the Canadian crowds were, it was truly incredible.”