Linton rides the birdie train to 17-under, takes lead heading into the weekend
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WINDSOR, Ontario – The birdies came in bunches on Friday at Ambassador Golf Club, with the USA’s Ryan Linton adding 10 more to his tally to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the Windsor Championship.
Linton followed his opening 62 with an 8-under 63 to sit one stroke ahead of Canadian Stuart Macdonald at the halfway point of PGA TOUR Canada’s seventh event in Windsor, Ontario. His 17-under total, which includes 18 birdies, one eagle and three bogeys, is the lowest first 36 holes recorded this season.
“It was another good day out there, rolling it well again, staying in the present, just focusing on the next shot,” Linton said.
Vancouver’s Macdonald, the first-round leader, followed his 60 with a 66 to sit in second place at 16-under. USA’s Joey Vrzich shot 62 and jumped 13 spots into a third-place tie at 14-under with Sam Choi, who also shot 62. Tied for fifth at 13-under is Joseph Juszczyk (67), Alex Scott (64) and Mexico’s Luis Gerardo Garza (62). Tied for eighth at 12-under is Derek Oland (64) and Jeffrey Kang (62).
Linton, of Lake Forest, Illinois, who - in addition to his 10 birdies - also recorded two bogeys on his card on Friday, has been successful forgetting about any bad shots and just keep grinding.
“Just letting go of a bad shot, a bad break,” Linton said. “It’s a part of golf, a part of life. You just deal with it. There’s not a thing you can do about it. They are what they are and they’re done.”
Macdonald, who won the Commissionaires Ottawa Open two weeks ago, did most of his damage on the second nine, when he birdied the first three holes.
“I’m hitting it pretty good for the most part,” he said. “If I can get those 15-20-footers to fall and those bonus putts, it’s going to be a good weekend.”
Vrzich, of La Mesa, California, posted his lowest score in 15 PGA TOUR Canada events. The former Pepperdine University standout had an eagle and seven birdies on his clean scorecard.
“I tried to just not make any bogeys today,” Vrzich said. “I hit every single green and I was 17-for-17 until I absolutely shanked the last one on the last hole. Thankfully I got that up and down to keep it bogey-free, so that’s nice.”
Choi, of Malibu, California, birdied his first four holes and closed with birdies on six of his final eight. He had 11 birdies and one bogey in shooting 62, matching his best round on PGA TOUR Canada.
“Two rounds to go and, knowing this course, you’ve got to keep attacking flags,” Choi said. “Try to make more birdies than others. It’ll be a fun one.”
Tied for ninth at 11-under 131 are Canadians Lawren Rowe (68), Raoul Menard (68), Matthew Anderson (66) and Noah Steele – who jumped 86 spots with his 62 – PGA TOUR University graduate Derek Hitchner (65), Luke Schniederjans (66), Cameron Sisk (62), and China’s Charles Wang (64).
Steele, of Kingston, Ontario, had nine birdies and shot 31 on both sides. It was the lowest tournament round of his professional career and came after a mental re-set after Thursday’s opening score of 69.
“I’m not going to lie, I was pretty frustrated when I got done Thursday,” Steele said. “It was a really steady day that I didn’t get as much out of as I would have wanted. The low scores are on the board, so I said earlier this morning that I basically was going to try to grab one.”
Steele stayed patient, hit his approach shots to the right spots, and made his putts.
“I’m proud that I stayed really disciplined and allowed the putter to work,” Steele added. “I hit some really good shots where I had some good looks. I wasn’t aiming at sticks all over, trying to force it. It was just kind of if it was going to happen, it would happen. If not, then it wouldn’t.”
Davis Shore, of Knoxville, Tennessee, who won last week’s Osprey Valley Open, failed to make the cut, but produced perhaps the best shot of the tournament, if not the season. Shore made a historic ace at the par-4 15th hole when he hit a drive 290 yards and into the cup.
Shore had reached the green with a 3-wood on Thursday, but opted to hit driver on Friday since the hole was playing into the wind.
“It was kind of a perfect driver and I hit it really well,” Shore said. “It was right at the pin but the thought of it going in never crossed my mind, to be honest, until it actually went it. I think it hit the flagstick pretty hard because we could hear it hit the pin from the tee and that’s a long ways. I think it just smashed the flagstick and dropped straight into the hole. It was pretty incredible.”
The crowd behind the green reacted with hoots and applause and immediately let Shore that the ball went in the hole.
“The people behind the green were going crazy,” Shore said. “We definitely knew it went in, which is cool to be able to see.”
It was the fifth hole-in-one of Shore’s career but the first in competition. He had albatross on a par-5, but never on a par-4.
The cut came at 7-under 135, the lowest cut in PGA TOUR Canada history with 73 players qualified for the weekend.
Thirty-four Canadians entered this week’s Windsor Championship, with 15 making the cut and qualifying for the weekend. Through 36 holes, leading the way for the Canadians is Stuart Macdonald at 16-under, just one stroke off the lead. Here are the Canadian players who made the cut and will continue this weekend, their scores and positions.
|2||Stuart Macdonald||126 (16-under)|
|T10||Noah Steele||131 (11-under)|
|T10||Lawren Rowe||131 (11-under)|
|T16||Jeevan Sihota||132 (10-under)|
|T16||Matthew Anderson||132 (10-under)|
|T16||Raoul Ménard||132 (10-under)|
|T16||Andrew Harrison||132 (10-under)|
|T26||Brendan MacDougall||133 (9-under)|
|T26||Thomas DeMarco (a)||133 (9-under)|
|T42||Max Sekulic||134 (8-under)|
|T42||Joey Savoie||134 (8-under)|
|T42||Jared du Toit||134 (8-under)|
|T53||Myles Creighton||135 (7-under)|
|T53||Drew Nesbitt||135 (7-under)|
|T53||Brendan Seys||135 (7-under)|
Stuart Macdonald’s goal is to finish No. 1 in the Fortinet Cup. He’s currently No. 5 and could make a big move this weekend with a win. But Macdonald’s immediate plans are uncertain since wife Carly is expecting the couple’s first child and is due on August 20. If the baby comes on time, he will be in the field for the next event in Winnipeg, August 24-27.
Joey Vrzich started his second nine by going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie. But he said that’s not his best stretch, recalling when he made “seven or eight” in a row once at a Monday qualifier. “But throw an eagle in there and it makes it special,” he said. It is the fifth time this season on PGA TOUR Canada that a player has gone five-under through a four-hole stretch.
Sam Choi, who joined PGA TOUR Canada through PGA TOUR University, has been the most consistent player this season with five top-six finishes in six starts. He began the week No. 7 on the Fortinet Cup list and needs to keep playing well to finish in the top five and earn status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour.
Davis Lamb and John Pak, No. 1 and No. 2 on the Fortinet Cup list, improved on their first-round 68s and easily made the cut. Lamb shot 65 and is tied for 26th, while Pak shot 64 and moved into 16th place.
The most birdies in an event this season is 29 by Davis Lamb at the Quebec Open. Sam Choi has 19 and Ryan Linton has 18 through 36 holes this week. Choi leads PGA TOUR Canada with 138.
Luis Gerardo Garza had 10 birdies and one bogey en route to his 62. That bettered his previous season-best of 63 shot during the Quebec Open.
Cristian DiMarco, who got into the field as a Monday qualifier, shot a season-low 62. He had missed the cut the two previous weeks.
Jeffrey Kang had a clean card, with nine birdies, on the way to a 62. Kang made his 2023 PGA TOUR Canada debut last week and tied for 17th at the Osprey Valley Open.
“Do the same thing (this weekend). Pick the spots to go after pins when you can and nothing really different. Just go out there and play golf and have some fun.” – Ryan Linton
“The last couple weeks I’ve been hitting it really good, but I haven’t been putting good at all. I switched something in my putting and now the looks that I’ve been having are going in, so it’s nice to finally score.” – Joey Vrzich
“Try to have more fun. Try not to get so mad. It’s been frustrating because I’ve been hitting a lot of greens and have not been putting good. So I said, ‘Who cares?’ It’s our last week until we have two weeks off, so just have fun. Don’t try to make it miserable on myself. So I’ve just been having fun and not really caring about what’s going on. It’s been working.” – Joey Vrzich on his approach this week
“I’m honestly just as proud of the bogey-free round as I was shooting a low number. It just shows you need to be patient and you can’t go out there and be super grumpy and try to fire at everything. It really is a process of hole-to-hole shot-to-shot.” – Noah Steele
“It’s a wide-open course. I’m very confident with my driver, so I just pick the right target, just send one there and try to figure it out from there. It’s been working so far.” – Sam Choi
Second-Round Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 29. Wind NNE from 10-15 km/h with gusts up to 30 km/h.