CALGARY — Jeff Maggert once had his heart broken by a Canadian, but the Great White North is giving back in a big way now.
Maggert, who went head-to-head and came up short in a battle at the 2003 Masters with the eventual winner, Canadian Mike Weir, has found redemption in Calgary at the Shaw Charity Classic.
Last year a closing round of 7-under gave him the championship, and this year he’s carded two rounds of 63 to sit at 14-under par through two rounds, three shots ahead of Carlos Franco. Others lurking behind include German Bernhard Langer, Michael Allen and Fred Funk. The three-day tournament ends on Sunday.
WATCH: Golf fan ettiquette at the Shaw Charity Classic
Before the tournament, Maggert, who has five Champions Tour wins to go with three PGA Tour victories, said perhaps too much is expected of the defending champion, adding his form hasn’t been where he expected this year. He came to Calgary this year with a little bit of anger over his lack of consistency, specifically his inability to go low in the final rounds last weekend in Seattle.
“I just like a day where I could shoot 8, 9, or maybe 10 under,” says Maggert. “A three-shot lead or whatever may seem significant at this point, but I need to play well on the front nine tomorrow and make some birdies.”
Maggert is being chased by Franco, from Paraguay, who won four times on the PGA Tour. Franco was paired with Tom Watson, who he called his idol. Watson, who struggled a day after shooting 5-under 65, praised Franco’s play.
“He played a magnificent round of golf today,” said Watson. “He’s a fine player. He showed me how this course could be played.”
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Watson said he could recount the times he played with his heroes, legends like Sam Snead or Arnold Palmer.
“I always enjoyed playing with Jack [Nicklaus] or Arnie or Sam Snead—those players—because I always wanted to learn something from them,” Watson said, before adding, “Carlos didn’t learn anything from me today, but I learned a heck of a lot from Carlos.”
With Maggert shooting low scores, Langer, the leading Champions Tour player, said he’ll have to come with his best in the final round to have a chance on Sunday.
“I’m going to have to play my golf and go as low as I can, certainly when I’m four or five behind,” said Langer. “I’m going to have to go really low and get off to a good start.”
Fred Funk, who shot 65, but finds himself five back, also was impressed by Maggert’s strong play.
WATCH: Shaw Charity Classic kicks off at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club
“That’s creating distance,” Funk said of Maggert’s second 63. “Damn him. You get some really good separation in two rounds and you’re playing really good. That will be tough out there.”
For his part, Maggert said he won’t be paying much attention to the leaderboard, choosing to simply focus on his game and his chase to repeat as Champion. The golfer’s wife and two of his children, 12-year old twins (Madeline and Jake), are in Calgary this week, and his son insisted on watching every shot Saturday, while his mother and sister went sightseeing in Banff. Golf, it seems, is a family affair.
“[Jake] plays more than I do,” Maggert joked.
His kids are also keen on getting their hands on the white cowboy hats awarded to the winner of the Shaw tournament. Given the way Maggert has played over five rounds at Canyon Meadows, perhaps the organizers of the Shaw Charity Classic should put in an order for a couple of additional hats now.