TORONTO – and his long friendship with Canadian star Mike Weir.
Relying on his past champion status to get into tournaments after finishing 152nd last year on the PGA Tour money list, the 40-year-old Wilson — Weir's teammate at BYU — received a sponsor exemption into the Canadian Open.
"I really appreciate that," Wilson said Saturday after shooting his third straight 5-under 65 to take a four-stroke lead over record-setting Carl Pettersson, Tim Clark and Bob Estes at rainy St. George's.
"Last year didn't turn out so good, and I'm a little more appreciative of getting in tournaments and playing and being out here and fighting and being in the battle. That time away, makes you think about what you don't have."
Before Wilson and Clark teed off, Pettersson shot a 10-under 60 in calm and dry morning conditions to break the tournament record, missing a 59 when his 30-foot birdie putt from the fringe grazed the left edge on the par-4 18th.
"I hit a pretty good 6-iron in there, but the wind sort of got it," Pettersson said. "And you can't go past the hole because then you got no chance. And it was actually a difficult putt to get to the hole because it was very steep uphill.
"I hit a good putt. I told myself, 'You cannot leave this short. You got to give this a chance.' And I hit a solid putt and it was just hovering right on the left side. ... With 6 inches less pace it probably would have gone in."
Estes had a 66, and Clark shot a 69 to match Pettersson at 11 under. Bryce Molder (63), Kevin Sutherland (65), Trevor Immelman (65) and Brock Mackenzie (68) were 10 under, and Jeff Quinney (64) and Cliff Kresge (66) were another stroke back.
Wilson, a six-time winner in Japan who won the 2006 International for his lone PGA Tour title, made his move midway through the round in the rain, birdieing Nos. 9-11. He holed a 5-footer on the par-5 ninth, an 8-footer on the par-4 10th and another 5-foot putt on the par-5 11th to open a three-stroke lead.
"Another day in Hawaii," said Wilson, from Kaneohe. "You just can't fight (the rain). You know that it's going to be there. You can't complain about it, and you just got to be a little tougher than the rain."
Wilson birdied the par-5 15th, making a downhill 6-footer, then gave the stroke back with a bogey on the par-3 16th. He closed with a 5-foot birdie putt on 18 to match Arnold Palmer at 195 for the tournament 54-hole record. Palmer set the mark at nearby Weston in 1955 en route to his first tour victory.
"This golf course is a great test," Wilson said. "I haven't heard one bad thing about it."
Pettersson was trying to become the second player this month and fifth overall to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour. Paul Goydos did it July 8 in the John Deere Classic and Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational) and David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic) also have accomplished the feat. In May on the Japan Tour, Ryo Ishikawa shot a 58 — the lowest score ever on a major tour.
"Obviously, I'm happy with the round, but I would have loved to have seen that putt go in," said Pettersson, a three-time PGA Tour winner.
Playing in the third group of the day after making the cut by a stroke with opening rounds of 71 and 68, the 32-year-old former North Carolina State player from Sweden had two eagles, seven birdies and a bogey.
"I thought I was going to miss the cut yesterday," Pettersson said. "We got finished with the round and it was right on the borderline. Me and Jay Williamson were actually watching the computer to see if we were going to make the cut, and had a few Canadian beers in there. That settled me down, I think. Maybe that's what did it."
Pettersson broke the tournament record of 62 set by Leonard Thompson in 1981 at Glen Abbey and matched by five others, including Brent Delahoussaye on Thursday and Sutherland on Friday. Pettersson tied the tournament record for relation to par of 10 under set by Greg Norman in 1986 when Glen Abbey played to a par of 72.
The Swede hit all 13 fairways in regulation, 14 of 18 greens and was 18 for 18 on putts inside 15 feet.
"I'm reading some of the stuff in the media about St. George's getting slayed and stuff like that," Immelman said. "I mean, that's fair enough, but the players are getting good, too. For Carl to shoot a 60 this morning, that's unbelievable golf."
John Mills and Adam Hadwin, the former Louisville player making his first PGA Tour start, were the top Canadians at 6 under. Mills had a 66, and Hadwin shot a 70.
DIVOTS: Only three of the 18 Canadians in the starting field made the cut. Stephen Ames, a naturalized Canadian citizen from Trinidad and Tobago, was 2 under after a 73. ... Clark played 42 bogey-free holes before dropping a stroke on No. 7.