The leaders have yet to tee off at the Reno-Tahoe Open, but they are already facing pressure to go low in the final round.
Troy Matteson had made five birdies in his first 11 holes to get to 10 under, three off the lead held by Scott Piercy.
Canadian Matt McQuillan has also made a much needed final-round move. He’s 4 under through nine holes, and sits at 9 under. McQuillan entered the week 148th in the FedExCup standings, putting him on the Playoffs bubble.
The winner of the Reno-Tahoe Open will earn a spot at next week’s PGA Championship if already not qualified for the event. The only player near the top of the leaderboard that is in the field next week is Steve Elkington, who won the PGA Championship in 1995.
Elkington is tied for third at 10 under, and leads the five major champions that made the cut in Reno this week (Todd Hamilton – 7 under, Justin Leonard – 6 under, Shaun Micheel – 4 under, Jose Maria Olazabal – 1 over).
It’s been well-documented that a Canadian hasn’t won the RBC Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher did it in 1954.
After a 2-under 68 Thursday, though, Matt McQuillan, who is playing in his first RBC Canadian Open, is hoping to change that.
“It was definitely nerve-racking,” McQuillan said of his opening tee shot. “But made a good swing right off the bat.”
He made plenty more after that, too. McQuillan had five birdies and three bogeys on the difficult Shaughnessy G&CC.
That hasn’t been the case for most of the season for the Canadian, however. In 13 starts, McQuillan has missed the cut 10 times. It wasn’t until the John Deere Classic, where McQuillan tied for third, that he finally got something out of his game after working on a swing change this season.
“I kind of made the fatal flaw earlier in the year,” McQuillan said. “I started to change my swing, but I've been sticking with it, and I knew I was working on the right things and it's finally clicked at the John Deere.”
What was the problem?
McQuillan has always hit a low draw, and that’s not a shot that necessarily works on TOUR very well. So he straightened out the flight, and the results.
“It's actually falling a little right, a little higher,” McQuillan said. ”So starting to feel good.”
Matt McQuillan has his passport, but he will also need a lot of luck to secure a spot in next week’s British Open.
He shot a final-round 64 and is the low man in the clubhouse at 17 under. Although he has a great chance to finish in the top five, he still finds himself five shots behind co-leader Kyle Stanley, who is also not exempt for next week’s major championship.
McQuillan said playing in the British Open hasn’t entered his mind, but if he qualified he would “be on the first plane over.”
The former Canadian Tour player took two years away from the game and worked as a bartended before returning to professional golf.
“It's been a long time coming, but I convinced myself I was working on the right things and it was going to click any day, and just happened to be this tournament,” McQuillan said.
Coming up in a couple of weeks for the Canadian? The RBC Canadian Open, held this year at Shaughnessy G&CC in Vancouver.
Rookie Matt McQuillan just wrapped up a career week on TOUR -- and he picked up a couple of spots on the leaderboard when he eagled the par-5 17th to get to 17 under and into a tie for third. Click here to watch it
Matt McQuillan, the q-school grad who hadn't made a cut in six months, is back in the top 10 after a disappointing backslide in the third round. He had shot rounds of 64-69 to earn a late tee time for the weekend.
The rookie took 32 putts on Saturday to slide off the board, but four early birdies Sunday have the Canadian back in the top 10 as he chases his biggest check (by far) on TOUR. He'd missed 10 cuts in a row since the season opener.
And to think ... he almost left the game behind. His stints on the Canadian Tour were not going well, so he packed up and went home to Ontario.
"I took two years off and worked locally in my hometown, and after about a year working I realized golf wasn't too bad," McQuillan said. "I was a bartender/server. So yeah, it was good to take a good break and realize how great playing golf is, and I was able to find a supporter, and they were able to get me back out on TOUR playing."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Only a few years ago Matt McQuillan was out of golf and tending bar, his dream of playing golf for a living appearing to be dead.
“I wasn't playing well and was running out of money, and just wasn't having really much fun at all with the game,” McQuillan said. “I took two years off and worked locally in my hometown, and after about a year working I realized golf wasn't too bad.”
That prompted the Canadian to qualify once again for the Canadian Tour, play the eGolf Tour in 2009 and ‘10 and eventually take what he calls a “shot in the dark” at q school, where he tied for 16th with a final-round 66 to earn a PGA TOUR card for this season.
In McQuillan’s first start of the year he tied for 54th at the Sony Open in Hawaii -- and he hasn’t made a cut since.
Fast forward to Thursday, however, and McQuillan has a share of the lead after a 64.
“I've been struggling all year, and I've been trying to grind it out, and I figured trying to start a tournament where it's just free‑wheeling, don't really care what happens, and it worked out today,” he said.
The reason it did? McQuillan drove it well -- he hit 71 percent of his fairways -- and was sharp with his irons -- he hit 83 percent of his greens in regulation -- on his way to seven birdies, an eagle and just two bogeys.
Needless to say, McQuillan’s time out of golf was humbling and that’s what is pushing him now.
“It's very difficult, and to stay positive and patient has been the key for me,” McQuillan said. “I'm out here playing with the best players in the world, and on the best golf courses in the world. So it's very tough to stay positive and patient. But I just figure I'm out here, I qualified to get out here, so trying to have fun and make some birdies.”
There’s another happy PGA TOUR rookie in southern California. Donnie Hammond has just withdrawn from the Bob Hope Classic and he’s been replaced by Matt McQuillan.
McQuillan, who played collegiately at Georgia, made his first cut in his first start on the PGA TOUR last week, finishing in a tie for 54th at the Sony Open in Hawaii.