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Starting year with chip on his shoulder, Piercy wins a big one in Canada
ANCASTER, Ontario (AP) Scott Piercy began the year with a chip on his shoulder, all because of the blank space on the front of his cap.
He had won for the first time on the PGA Tour at the Reno-Tahoe Open, but it didn't feel like much of a win. It didn't get him into the Masters, or any other major, not even the World Golf Championships.
And in a tough economy, he couldn't attract a sponsor for his hat, the prime billboard in golf.
Instead of giving it away, Piercy went blank.
"We thought we had a couple of deals lined up. It just didn't close as quick as we thought," Piercy said. "It gave me the ability to kind of put a chip on my shoulder and go play well, and maybe create some of my own value so that I'm worth it."
Validation came Sunday in the Canadian Open on a course that required what Piercy referred to as "boring golf."
It was anything but that when he posed with the trophy after his one-shot victory over William McGirt and Robert Garrigus at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.
In a three-man race over the final hour, Piercy had to scramble for bogey on the 14th hole that dropped him two shots behind with four to play. Then, he chipped in for birdie on the next hole and closed with three pars as McGirt and Garrigus make just enough mistakes.
Piercy two-putted from 50 feet below the cup on the 18th hole for a 3-under 67, tying the oldest 72-hole tournament record on the PGA Tour at 263. Then, he had to wait.
Garrigus missed a half-dozen putts inside 8 feet in the final round, the last one proving to be the most costly. From short of the green about 75 feet away, he lagged his first putt to just inside 8 feet and missed that to make a bogey and fall one shot behind.
McGirt, atop the leaderboard for most of the final round and looking poised for a guy who had never seriously contended, three-putted the 15th hole by ramming his 45-foot putt about 15 feet past the cup.
It was his first and only three-putt of the tournament, and it cost him a one-shot lead. Needing a par on 18th to force a playoff, McGirt hit his approach into a deep bunker right of the green, hit a pedestrian bunker shot to 18 feet and missed it.
"I was just trying to make pars and get into the house," said McGirt, who closed with a 69 for his seventh straight round in the 60s.
Garrigus had one last chance with a 15-foot birdie attempt on the 18th. It came up a fraction short, giving him a 70 and a bitter feeling about a wasted opportunity.
"I should have won this tournament by seven shots. Everybody knows that," Garrigus said. "If I could have just made a putt today."
Self-deprecating as ever, Garrigus referred to the final hole as a "good effort on 18 with my two shots and then lagged it up there for a nice, second-place finish."
The win was timely in so many ways for Piercy.
He was headed to the Reno-Tahoe Open to defend his first tour title. Now, he is on his way to Firestone to play in the $8 million Bridgestone Invitational, his debut in a World Golf Championship.
He'll start his season in Kapalua again for the Tournament of Champions, and then make plans in April for his first trip down Magnolia Lane to play in the Masters.
"I've always told myself I'm not going unless I'm in the tournament," Piercy said.
He also went to No. 13 in the FedEx Cup standings, leaving him in reasonable shape to advance to the Tour Championship for the first time and get into all the majors.
Piercy is on the A-list of power players in golf, though he doesn't get much attention without winning big tournaments. That's what led to his comments about "boring golf" on the classic design at Hamilton. He prefers to smash drivers and attack flags. Hamilton is about position.
It raised the eyebrows of proud Canadians when he said that Friday after opening with rounds of 62-67 to share the lead going into the weekend because Hamilton is regarded as among the best on the Canadian Open rotation.
Lost in those comments was how much fun it would be to win the tournament. And that's how it felt.
Reminded of that comment, with the silver trophy from golf's third-oldest championship at his side, he smiled.
"That was taken a little out of context," he said. "I like to hit driver a lot, and this golf course I felt took the driver out of my hands. I did say, however, that at the end of the week if the score is good, it is exciting. So I'm pretty excited."
It was anything but boring at the start of his round, when he quickly erased a two-shot deficit by running off four straight birdies. He used iron off the tee for the first two birdies, then turned to his power.
First, he blasted a 5-iron from 236 yards in the rough onto the green on the par-5 fourth hole for a two-putt birdie. Then, he hit driver onto the green at the 296-yard fifth hole for another two-putt birdie.
He never imagined playing the rest of the way at 1-over par and winning the tournament. His 263 tied the record set by Johnny Palmer in 1952 at St. Charles in Winnipeg, Manitoba. That leaves The Barclays (Bob Gilder in 1982) as the tournament that has gone the longest without its scoring record being matched or beaten.
Piercy, meanwhile, was only slightly disappointed at not going to the Reno-Tahoe Open, a special tournament for him because it was his first PGA Tour win.
Because play was so brisk at Hamilton, CBS Sports had time to fill in its broadcast, so the interviews with players were longer than usual.
Piercy was sure to thank his sponsors one on front of his cap, two more on his shirt sleeve, his equipment sponsor and an apparel sponsor. "Thanks for sticking by me," said the guy who replaced a chip on his shoulder with a big silver trophy.