Date: July 30, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

Ruff holds nerve in Canada

Ryan Ruffels has placed himself within reach of a handful of key goals sitting tied fifth before the final round of the Canadian Open.

The Victorian teenager defied his inexperience at the US PGA Tour level and fought back superbly from back-to-back bogeys midway through his back nine to stay within three of leader Charley Hoffman after three rounds.

At 14 under after rounds of 67-67-68, Ruffels is on track for his best finish in 14 career starts on the big tour, where his dream is to achieve playing rights without having to rely on sponsor invites as he has this week.

The foremost goal for the Golf Australia rookie squad member is to finish in the top 10, thereby earning another start next week.

The next level up is more speculative, but should he finish in his current position, he would receive 90 FedEx Cup points to add to his current 10 this year. Currently, the player ranked 200th on that list has 65 points and the top 200 earn the right to play the Web.Com Tour finals for a shot at a PGA Tour card next season.

Aside from the obvious financial gain, a top three result would all but ensure him that berth.

Naturally, a win would alter his world forever.

But for now, the 19-year-old – who's based this season the LatinoAmerica Tour and has battled in his past couple of starts on the big tour – is happy to be producing the form where it matters most.

"I'm lucky because most people, maybe on the smaller tours, don't get these opportunities," Ruffels said.

"So every week that I get out here is a great opportunity for me.

"I had a bit of a rough stretch through the last three weeks (of PGA Tour starts) and sort of worked on a few things.

"I worked really, really hard to try and get it back because I knew my game was good enough to be out here – I just sort of had to prove it.

"I feel like this week, it's starting, this is what should be happening a little bit more, so I'm happy to see that."

Ruffels turned in four-under 31 at Glen Abbey Golf Club in suburban Toronto then made a clutch par on the 11th after chipping out from deep rough after tugging his drive.

Bogeys on the 13th and 14th threatened to derail the dual Australian junior champion, but he responded in grand style with birdies on the 16th and 17th before a clutch par putt on the last to maintain his momentum for his berth in the fifth-last pairing in round four with young American Brandon Hagy.

"I had a bit of a falter on that back nine there, 13, which is a really gettable hole for me because I can get my length off the tee," Ruffels said.

"I blew a drive right there and 14, as well. So two bogeys in a row and I sort of slipped back.

"It was a gutsy sort of 16, 17, 18. Two good birdies on 16, 17. Thought I made that putt for eagle on 16.

"It was important not to drop that one (on 18) because I knew it was going to put me a few groups earlier and I wanted to be as close to the leaders as I can."

Importantly for Ruffels is that despite his incredible length off the tee – his 329-yard average this week is second only to world No.1 Dustin Johnson – he feels like is best is yet to come.

"I don't feel like I've got quite my A Game right now, especially off the tee," he said.

"When I'm driving it well, I don't miss a lot of fairways. I've had just a few sort of big misses off the tee, and when those happen, I've just got to sort of grit down a little bit and make a few putts, make a few par saves.

"I feel like I'm doing well with keeping my head and holding it together a little bit. My putter is hot, so when I get a chance, I'm converting a good percentage."

New South Welshman Brett Drewitt and Victorian Cam Percy, the only other Aussies to make the cut, fell from contention with rounds of 72 and 73, respectively to start the final round at four under and sharing 70th place.