TORONTO » For the longest time yesterday afternoon it seemed as if Kaneohe’s Dean Wilson was destined to finish his stunning week at the RBC Canadian Open in victory.
He started the day with a four-shot lead and played steady, consistent golf through the front nine. No players ahead of him were making a serious charge, so his only challenger was Swede Carl Pettersson, who was playing with him in the day’s final pairing.
But Pettersson — who shot a course-record 60 on Saturday — caught fire again at just the right time, making six birdies in an eight-hole stretch, capped off at the par-4 14th, where he made a 30-foot birdie putt.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s approach shot rolled just off the back edge of the green and into deep rough. He pitched it to about 13 feet from the cup, but missed the par effort. That two-shot swing was a turning point, with Wilson relinquishing the lead for the first time since Friday.
"That was my bad swing of the day right there (at the 14th)," said Wilson. "I had a good yardage, good mind-set of what I was going to do, (but) I caught that ball a little thin and it rolled over the green and I paid the price. You get it in that rough and it’s just really tough to judge chipping. So yeah, it was a big swing there."
Trailing by two on the 18th hole, Wilson still had a chance to force a playoff if he could sink a 24-foot birdie putt and have Pettersson miss his short par attempt. But Wilson’s bid came up short, while Pettersson two-putted for a bogey and a one-shot win.
Wilson had to come to grips with a second-place finish and thoughts of what could have been.
"I knew what I had to do (today) and just didn’t execute," said Wilson, who parlayed a sponsor’s exemption into an unexpected role as the tournament’s biggest story for most of the weekend. "I didn’t get it done, but maybe if I had more tournaments that I played and had a little more confidence with what I was doing, maybe that might have helped," he added, referring to the fact that because he lost his tour card last year, he arrived here having played only eight events in 2010, missing the cut in five of those.
While he’s disappointed about not winning, the Castle High grad insisted that he’ll leave Canada with mostly great memories from a special week — made especially sweet, considering how long it had been since he had contended in a tournament.
"I felt really good about my emotions. I felt good about my mind-set and what I was doing. I’m happy with the way I performed. I know how I am when I’m very nervous, and I perform poorly; and I don’t view it that way today."
Wilson, who was attempting to win for the second time on tour and has now finished second twice, could have secured his tour card for the next two years with a win, plus gained entry into next month’s PGA Championship and next year’s Masters. Instead, he’ll have to settle with earning a spot in next week’s Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia and $550,800 in prize money.
That gives him $616,570 for the season, putting him 110th on the money list. The top 125 secure their playing privileges for next year, but because many of those trailing him can play week after week until October, he’ll need to take full advantage of whatever opportunities he gets between now and the season’s end to avoid going to the dreaded Q school and trying to get his tour card the hard way.
"If you told me at the beginning of the week I could have second by myself, I would have taken it skipping," said the 40-year-old, who now lives in Las Vegas. "I feel good about my game. It’s moving in the right direction. I sure feel better at the end of this week than I did seven days ago. And I’m happy with moving up on the money list. But my options are pretty slim. I’m not going to get in very many tournaments from here on out. I’ll get in next week, and we’ll see, maybe I can get another sponsor invite here and there."
Wilson said he has received many e-mails and messages over the past few days from friends in Hawaii offering him support and encouragement. He said that he didn’t have a chance to reply because he was focused on getting his rest. But now that the event is over, he’s looking forward to getting back to everyone and reporting "nothing but positives" about his week here.