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Will a perfect Sunday happen at the RBC Canadian Open?

Corey Conners Corey Conners - The Canadian Press

What would a perfect Sunday look like at the RBC Canadian Open?

That’s a question Canadian golf fans are asking themselves as they settle in for the final round of the national championship.

There have been many great tournaments that have delivered a perfect Sunday. Tiger Woods winning the title in 2000 might be at the top of the list. Not just that he won but how he did it with a brilliant iron shot to the 18th green at Glen Abbey.

Four years later, it came close to a perfect finish when Mike Weir went into a playoff against Vijay Singh. It looked as if there might be a Canadian champion at long last. Instead, Singh prevailed. In his post-round interview, he told all of Canada, “I feel like I spoiled the party.”

Last year’s edition was pretty close to perfect. Justin Rose came within a putt of shooting 59 on the famed St. George’s Golf and Country Club course. Corey Conners wasn’t far off that number, posting a round of 63.

And the final group of Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau had a thrilling battle down the stretch before McIlroy pulled away to defend the title he’d won three years earlier.

A year later, here we are with a table that’s set for some exciting possibilities. Major champions and Canadians are all in the running in what is an exceptionally crowded leaderboard filled with good stories.

One version of perfection would be McIlroy winning for the third time. No one has done that in the long history of the Open. It would be good for the tournament after the early week brouhaha of LIV-PGA Tour nonsense. No one would remember that. Everyone would remember Rory hoisting the trophy.

“I would love to win the Canadian Open for the third time,” he said after Saturday’s round that left him two shots off the lead held by C.T. Pan. “ I've never won a tournament three times in a row. I felt like last year the win wasn't just for me it was for a few other things. But this one, this year, if I were able to get over the line, will be solely for me.”

No one would chastise McIlroy for feeling greedy. He’s done a lot of off-course work this week.

Of course the best story might be a Canadian winning. Every Canadian who’s ever gripped a club knows that the last time this happened was 1954 and the winner was Pat Fletcher. You have to go back another 40 years to find the previous Canadian champion, that being Karl Keffer of Tottenham, Ont. He holds the distinction of being the last Canadian-born winner (Fletcher was born in the UK).

The list of almost-Canadian winners is long: Richard Zokol, Dave Barr, Weir, David Hearn, Adam Hadwin, Graham DeLaet and amateur Jared du Toit. This year, two more are in the running and both are legitimate chances: Nick Taylor, who is three back, and Corey Conners, four behind.

Conners won earlier this year, taking his second Valero Texas Open. He was also in position heading into the final round of the PGA Championship before slipping to a tie for 12th. But he has played some beautiful golf this week, finding fairways landing on greens. He could put together another brilliant round in a career that has already had plenty.

“It's been far too long,” Conners said of the drought. “So I'm going to be letting it fly, giving it my all tomorrow and I'm sure he's going to be doing the same thing. I've got some ground to make up, but you never know. We have a chance.”

Taylor heads into Sunday’s round after setting the course record on Saturday, a silky 63 that could have been even lower had a few putts rolled an inch or two farther.

The Abbotsford, B.C., product has some experience of being in the spotlight at big tournaments. Two years ago he stared down Phil Mickelson in the final group at Pebble Beach, winning for the second time on the PGA Tour. Earlier this year, he played in the final group at the WM Championship alongside Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, battling to the end before finishing second.

“I think we're rooting for each other,” summed up Taylor, “but we still we want to win. If we don't win, I think we want another Canadian to win. That's kind of how we feel at any event, honestly, as well as here. But I'm going to go out tomorrow and do my thing and try to win the golf tournament. If I look up and I'm second and Corey Conners is first then that's almost as good as winning.”

If Sunday ends with a Canadian flag on top of the leaderboard, it won’t matter the name that goes beside it. At least, for the fans. It will be a moment of perfection.

We can’t ask for anything more than that.