BLAINVILLE, QC- Fasten your seatbelts – it’s going to be a wild Sunday ride to crown the maiden champion at the Montreal Championship presented by Desjardins.
With a crowd in excess of 25,000 expected for Sunday, some of the Champions Tour’s best are set to slug it out in a final day free-for-all at Club de golf Le Fontainebleau.
John Cook, the 1983 Canadian Open champion, will look to notch his second career win north of the 49th as he holds down the pole position with 18 to holes to go.
Cook matched his opening day 6-under 66 and after two trips around Fontainebleau is at 12-under 132 to open up a one-shot edge on overnight co-leader Russ Cochran (68).
D.A. Weibring put up nine 3’s on his scorecard en route to a course record 63, two shots better than the old mark, to get nine in the red and right into the mix. There is a seven-player logjam at 9-under with Weibring, Craig Stadler (65), Fred Couples (66), Corey Pavin (67) as well David Frost (68), Larry Mize, (68), James Mason (69) and Peter Senior (68).
On the heels of a forgettable opening day 71, Victoria’s Jim Rutledge rebounded with a 3-under 68 and holds a share of 34th at 4-under.
Following a birdie on his second hole of the day, Cook saved par with a 15-foot knee-knocker on 3. On the par-5 seventh, he knocked a 5-iron to seven feet before cashing in the eagle putt.
Despite missing just two greens in his first two days, Cook knows he will need another low round Sunday. A quick look over his shoulder should give him all the incentive he needs.
“There are some impressive names there, for sure,” Cook added. “I might be leading, but Sunday is the telling day. I really won’t worry about anything until the back side. If I can give myself chances, I can’t ask for anything more than that.
“These guys won’t lay down and I’m not going to lay down.”
Cochran had his hands full early Saturday with a double-bogey on four followed by a bogey on the sixth. He settled down to record birdies on eight and nine and played his final 11 holes at 5-under. Needing just 50 putts in two days, Cochran admitted to getting bailed out by the flat stick.
“I’m really happy with the way I made some putts to get going,” Cochran said. “Overall, I didn’t play great but I got the ball in the hole pretty well. The putter’s the best it’s been all year.”
Making just his second Champions Tour start, Calcavecchia made a Saturday charge but didn’t do it the easy way. When his day was over, his scorecard featured an eagle, seven birdies and three bogeys.
A reporter jokingly asked if a win might put him in line for Rookie of the Year honours.
“I think the rookie of the year is pretty much over with for the year,” Calcavecchia laughed, referring to Couples, a three-time winner in his freshman campaign. “I could have been a few better but I made a couple of putts I wasn’t expecting to make, so overall I’m happy with that. I need to come out and shoot something decent.”
At minus-8, Mark Calcavecchia, looking for his third win in Canada after triumphs at the 1997 Greater Vancouver Open and 2005 Canadian Open, was impressed with the crowds yet again Saturday, adding the galleries were as large as some PGA TOUR events.
“Yeah, they’re great. I heard that they were going to have big crowds this week and I thank the fans for coming out and supporting us. I think once the word gets out to the few guys that didn’t come, you’ll see an even better field next year.”
Couples admitted scraping it around Fontainebleau in the opening round but found the touch that has seen him rack up 15 PGA TOUR wins, including the 1992 Masters. The long bomber eagled the par-5 seventh and added four more birdies on his back nine, including a 10-footer on the closing hole, leading to a roar that shook Fontainebleau.
“I’m now back in the tournament and I’m in great shape for tomorrow,” Couples said. “I can only do what I can do, and today was a better day to move myself up the leaderboard and give myself a shot to win tomorrow.”
For the second straight day – third if you consider Thursday’s pro am – a swarming crowd of thousands made the 7,070 yard trek with Couples, leading him to suggest this could very well be a record-setting week on the Champions Tour.
“There were a lot of people out there, which is a lot of fun,” said Couples. “This is a phenomenal event, as good as or better than any of our big tournaments we play. I’m pretty sure they’re going to break a record with people out here for the week.”
“They’re going to have 25,000 people out here. That’s a big crowd.”
Hometown favourite Talbot just couldn’t get into gear Saturday and stumbled in with an even-par round that saw him plummet from 37th to 54th on the leaderboard. Talbot wiill be paired with fellow Quebec star Yvan Beauchemin Sunday.
“I didn’t hit the fairways and when I did, I was far away,” said Talbot. “It makes no sense. I hit some good shots, and I hit a lot of horrible shots.”