Jones takes two-shot lead into final round
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Written by PGA TOUR Canada Staff @PGATOURCanada
COURTENAY, British Columbia—It looks like it will be a horse race to the finish line for Friday’s last round at Crown Isle Resort for the sixth and final PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament for the 2023 Fortinet Cup.
Four players sit four shots apart heading into the final 18 holes. The medalist will earn full exemption on the Tour for 2023, while the second through ninth place finishers nabs exemption through to the reshuffle about halfway through the campaign. The 10th-to 30th-place finishers will have conditional status.
Jimmy Jones of Lake Cowichan, British Columbia, leads the way after rounds of 72-63-68 for a 203 total, followed by fellow Canadian Max Sear of Victoria, British Columbia who is just two shots back, thanks to scores of 67-69-69.
U.S. player Carr Vernon, who had a share of the first-round lead, is four strokes behind Jones. Vernon bounced back from an even-par 72 on day two with a 3-under 69 Thursday after beginning the tournament with a 66.
Scotsman Callum McNeill followed his electrifying, 12-under 60 Wednesday with a 71 in the third round and is also four back of Jones. Canadian Andrew Harrison, of Camrose, Alberta, (67-72-69) and Austin Fox of the U.S. (67-71-70), are within five strokes of Jones, who began the day tied for the lead.
Jones will attempt to finish things off Friday with some home-advantage-like backing.
“I’ll sleep like a baby, I can guarantee you that. I’ve been waking up before my alarm all week. I’m probably just getting off East Coast time,” said Jones, who will go to bed knowing he’s in a great position.
“It’s from a lot of hard work at home and a lot of people having belief in my game and continuing to give myself chances to make it to that next level. [Friday] will be a great experience for me. It’s going to be a great time and something I’ll be able to take into this year, too,” he stressed.
The top two players are no strangers to each other, both with Vancouver Island ties. Jones tied for seventh at the Crown Isle Q-School last year and Sear was fourth.
“I expect a good time with a lot of chatter. It’s going to be fun,” Jones said of playing with Sear, who made his charge late in the Thursday round.
Sear began play on the back nine and suffered a three-putt bogey on No. 18 (his ninth hole of the day) but rebounded nicely on what most people say is a tougher front nine, with three birdies. Sear had three bogeys and three birdies on his opening nine holes.
“Anytime you win, it obviously helps your confidence, but at the same time I think I made six cuts on this Tour last year, so I know I can compete out here. It’s more so just putting myself in good position and using it as a tool to prepare for things down the road,” Sear said of heading into his final round.
He used the three-putt bogey to his advantage, though, focusing as he made his turn.
“Honestly, I thought the bogey on 18 was beneficial. I’d been hitting a big cut off the tee the first few days, and I finally squared one up. I kind of found something in my swing a little bit. I made a bogey, but I felt it needed to happen. Then going to my back nine, I gave myself some looks and made a few.”
His score after three rounds is identical to where he was at this point in 2022.
“That’s obviously good, and Friday it’s the same thing. Shot by shot, hole by hole; nothing crazy. If I feel like I’m in trouble, just get out of it, and if I feel there’s an opportunity to get aggressive there’s no point in holding back,” said Sear.
It’s the same plan Jones has going this week.
“The idea today was to be 10 out of 10 committed on every swing and be patient as possible,” said Jones, the Tampa-born son of legendary Canadian LPGA golfer Dawn Coe-Jones, who passed away in 2016 from cancer.
He rolled in an eagle putt on the fifth hole and parred the other eight holes to begin his front nine.
“I had the goal today of playing the golf course, (to) see what I could do from [Wednesday] because the toughest days of golf are the ones after you go really deep,” said Jones, who turned it up on his back nine with four birdies, mixed in with two bogeys.
Did you know former University of Victoria Vike Lawren Rowe has tasted plenty of success during his play at PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournaments? Rowe finished second in 2022 at The Home Course in suburban Tacoma, Washington, and tied for sixth in 2021. This year he sits tied for seventh after three rounds.
How the Tournament Works
There were 117 players in this week’s field, with 115 still competing. Below is a breakdown of the various PGA TOUR Canada membership statuses available this week.
|Medalist||Exempt membership for the 2023 season|
|2nd through 10th (no ties)||Exempt through the reshuffle, which will occur approximately halfway through the season|
|11th through 30th (plus ties)||Conditional membership|
There are 15 amateurs playing at Crown Isle Resort. Leading the way is A.J. Ewart of Coquitlam, British Columbia, after rounds of 71-70-69. He is tied for seventh, at 6-under
When you start your round with scores of eagle, birdie, birdie, hole-in-one for eagle, birdie, you generally think you’re in for something remarkably special. Australian Jay Mackenzie did just that to begin his third round at Crown Isle, but he knew it wasn’t going to be a pinch-me moment. He settled in for a par on hole No. 6 after going 7-under through five holes and then suffered a bogey on No. 7 before parring out for a 30 on his front nine. McKenzie then struggled his way in with a 3-over 39 on the back nine, but still moved up 16 spots on the leaderboard to sit tied for 33rd. “It was a wild start, but it didn’t feel right. Normally when you’re going good, you’re hitting it good and I wasn’t,” insisted Mackenzie, who said his red-hot start was fortune more than anything, including blading a thin shot out of the bunker on No. 1 and into the hole for eagle.
As for Jay Mackenzie’s hole-in-one in the third round, he counted that as luck, never intending to fly it at the hole on a tough pin location on No. 4. “I was aiming for middle of the green and hooked it in. I definitely wasn’t going at that pin.”
The expectations were high coming into this event for Noah Steele, and he leaned more toward those lofty goals Thursday as the 23-year-old Kingston, Ontario, native got on the right side of par with a 2-under 70. The problem is he began the tournament with scores of 74-75. “Just a couple more reps, to be honest, a little bit cleaner and I saw some putts go in which was quite nice,” he said. The Golf Canada product said he was just trying to keep it simple without any added pressure. “I got off to a slow start, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort, just a couple of mistakes that compounded and got a little bit big.”
It wasn’t exactly “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” but it also wasn’t a clean trip to Courtenay, British Columbia, from Mexico City for Federico Gutierrez, who came through with a solid 6-under 66 Thursday after a 77-75 start. “It was horrible. I had a 12-hour delay in Mexico City.” He explained it took him a day and a half to get to Vancouver, starting out from his home three hours north of Mexico City. He missed the ferry he wanted to take because he waited 90 minutes to get his rental car. “At one point I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t have a practice round (Monday). I got here at 7:50 p.m. and just got to walk around the course. That was it.”
American Tyson Dinsmore, of Los Altos Hills, California, began the day tied for the lead with Jones, but struggled to a 4-over 76 and is now eight shots back of top spot. He was 2-under on the day until he suffered a bogey at No. 7. He then hit two tee balls out of bounds on No. 8 and recorded a quadruple bogey-8 on the par 4.
Thirty-eight players are under par after three rounds and another six are at even-par 216
There is a logjam of eight players tied for seventh place, at 6-under 210, which will prove very interesting Friday with the top nine players earning exemptions of some form on the upcoming season, which begins next week at the Royal Beach Victoria Open.
“Honestly, I would like to think that was true. I didn’t know that. I hadn’t seen that, but, honestly, I was just trying to take it a day at a time and play clean, steady golf. It was more of that today.” –Noah Steele
“I forgot to write my scores down. Honestly. When the official asked me (at the turn), I said I forgot. I think I was having too much fun.” – Federico Gutierrez on blanking out after nine holes and then relying on his playing partners, Tristan Mandur and Andy Kang, who were keeping track of his hole-by-hole results
“The only difference was I made putts today. Nothing changed. My strategy was exactly the same. I hit the ball exactly the same, and I rolled it exactly the same.” – Federicoo Gutierrez on his 66 after rounds of 77-75 to start