KITCHENER, Ontario — Thomas Walsh and Scott Stevens waged an epic battle in the second round of the Fortinet Cup Championship at the Deer Ridge Golf Club. So good was the competition that Walsh and Stevens are scheduled to play together again on Saturday.
Walsh leads PGA TOUR Canada’s final tournament of the season by one shot over his playing partner Stevens. Walsh is 8-under after 36 holes, while Stevens is 7-under, and they both admitted they had fun throughout the round played in sunny, warm conditions on a late-summer afternoon.
Both players nearly had holes-in-one on the par-3 16th. Walsh’s tee shot hit the lip and rimmed out, leaving him a tap-in birdie. All Stevens did was essentially replicate Walsh’s shot, only Stevens’ ball landed inside of Walsh’s—three inches from the cup.
“I have no idea how [the ball] didn’t go in,” Walsh said of his would-be ace. “Then [Stevens] almost topped it on top of me. We had a lot of good fun out there. We were feeding off each other there,” Walsh said. “It was a good day.”
The tournament leaders posted some impressive numbers. Walsh fired a 66 for the second consecutive day, making five birdies and an eagle. The latter came on a long hole out from the fairway on the 15th hole.
“It was a pretty fortunate break there coming off a bogey,” Walsh said of his eagle make that he couldn’t see go in the hole. When he got to the green and didn’t see his ball, he began searching in the rough. He eventually checked in the cup only to see it sitting safely inside. “It was kind of a nice change of momentum, and the golf gods gave me one there. It was pretty fortunate.”
Stevens, meanwhile, had five birdies and captured sole possession of second place with his continued solid play.
“It’s going to be a battle out there,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. We know what each other is doing, so that helps a little bit.”
There’s a lot of golf left, he added, and the focus will be on his game — enjoying the opportunity and learning from it.
At the midway mark, contenders are plentiful with an abundance of incentives waiting Sunday night. The challenging Deer Ridge course, though, isn’t going to give a lot.
“I don’t think you attack this place. In my opinion you just go and do the exact same things,” said Wil Bateman, who is tied for fifth, at 5-under, after fired a 5-under 65, tying him for low-round-of-the-day honors with fellow Canadian Étienne Papineau. “I feel like I’m playing really good. Just like my goal was starting the season, I’m just going to really stay patient all the way to the end. I’m going to try and be even more patient the next two days.”
Papineau and Jorge Villar are tied for third, at 6-under. Joe Highsmith joined Bateman in the mix. Nolan Ray, Tyler Strafaci and Joey Vrzich are tied for seventh at 4-under on the tight leaderboard.
Play continues through Sunday with the Fortinet Cup Championship trophy on the line, along with the Tour crowning the overall Fortinet Cup champion and Player of the Year honors. Membership on the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour is also available, as is a spot in the PGA TOUR’s RBC Canadian Open next season.
Did you know tournament front-runner Thomas Walsh won three amateur tournaments in 2018? The former Virginia Cavalier captured the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship by two strokes over Doc Redman, he prevailed in the Porter Cup by three shots over Blake Windred, Ben Schlottman and Ty Strafaci and then finished his run of victories at the Inverness Intercollegiate, coasting to an impressive nine-shot triumph over Soren Broholt Lind.
How the Canadians fared
Quebec’s Étienne Papineau and Wil Bateman of Alberta top nine players from Canada after two rounds. Both are in championship contention, tied for third and fifth, respectively. Here is how all nine players sit through 36 holes.
|T3||Étienne Papineau||69-65—134 (6-under)|
|T5||Wil Bateman||70-65—135 (5-under)|
|T12||Joey Savoie||69-69—138 (2-under)|
|T18||Myles Creighton||70-70—140 (even)|
|T18||Brendan MacDougall||71-69—140 (even)|
|T23||Chris Crisologo||71-70—141 (1-over)|
|T36||Sudarshan Yellamaraju||72-72—144 (4-over)|
|T46||Chris R. Wilson||71-76—147 (7-over)|
|T50||Jared du Toit||73-75—148 (8-over)|
Fortinet Cup Standings
(Through the GolfBC Championship)
|Rank||Player||Points||Fortinet Cup Projected Pos.|
|1||Jake Knapp (U.S.)||1,094||4|
|T2||Wil Bateman (Canada)||1,054||3|
|T2||Noah Goodwin (U.S.)||1,054||5|
|4||Scott Stevens (U.S.)||972||1|
|5||Ryan Gerard (U.S.)||845||6|
|6||Danny Walker (U.S.)||743||8|
|7||Brian Carlson (U.S.)||679||10|
|8||Thomas Walsh (U.S.)||669||2|
|9||Ian Holt (U.S.)||666||9|
|10||Joe Highsmith (U.S.)||663||7|
This is a no-cut tournament.
Fortinet Cup points leader Jake Knapp is 4-over after two rounds. He shot a 1-over 71 Thursday and a 73 Friday, landing in a tie for 36th after 36 holes. Here is where 2022 tournament champs and Fortinet Cup standings contenders are through 36 holes. Ryan Gerard (tied for 15th), Parker Coody (tied for 28th), Brian Carlson (tied for 42nd), Noah Goodwin and Danny Walker (both tied for 53rd).
The biggest climber Friday was Thomas Longbella, who enters the weekend at even-par. The former University of Minnesota star moved up 32 positions Friday. He followed a 74 in the opening round with a 4-under 66. Others with significant moves include Parker Gillam (tied for 23rd after a 2-under 68) and Wil Bateman (tied for fifth, 5-under 65). Gillam climbed 23 leaderboard spots, while Bateman rose 19 positions.
Nolan Ray and Tyler Strafaci played together Friday, and after they both opened with 69s, they fired second-round 67s and are tied for seventh. In addition to their identical scores, Ray and Strafaci began their second rounds with bogeys on No. 1, and they ended their days with bogeys on No. 18. They also both made eagles, Ray at the par-5 third and Strafaci at the par-5 12th. They each posted four birdies and two bogeys, as well.
It was a tale of two nines for Austin Hitt, who was able to shoot an even-par 70 after making the front-nine turn in 3-over after three bogeys and a double bogey. He turned things around, starting at No. 10 after consecutive bogeys at the eighth and ninth holes. Hitt, a former University of North Carolina player, birdied Nos. 10 and 11 then added his final birdie of the day, at the 16th, before parring out for his 70. He’s tied for 12th.
The beat goes on for Joe Highsmith. He posted a 2-under 68 for his 15th consecutive PGA TOUR Canada round in the 60s. Highsmith is tied for fifth through 36 holes, three strokes behind Thomas Walsh.
There was only one birdie on No. 1 and one birdie on No. 6 today. Jeffrey Kang birdied the opening hole, and Myles Creighton had the lone birdie at six. The 18th hole, the course’s most-difficult for the second consecutive day, did not yield a birdie among the 58 players who went through there Friday.
In Thursday’s first round, Jorge Villar made a late bogey, at No. 17. Friday, despite shooting a 3-under 67 that has him tied for third, he bogeyed his closing hole. After hitting his drive that took an errant bounce in the right rough, he hit his approach shot on the par-4 into the bunker. He couldn’t get up and down from there, missing a downhill eight-footer for par. “Eighteen is a tough hole. It was downhill and pretty fast,” Villar said of that putt. “It’s the second day of the tournament, with a lot of holes left to make birdies. I didn’t want to make double (bogey) there.” Two holes earlier, on the par-3 16th, he hit a tee ball that he thought was going in the hole.
Wil Bateman’s even-par 70 in Thursday’s opening round ended his streak of 17 consecutive under-par rounds, dating to his final-round 68 at the Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Ontario Open. With the even-par 70 and Friday’s 5-under 65, Bateman did keep his par-or-better streak alive, leaving him a cumulative 68-under during this stretch.
From the locker room
“I’m going to be playing with Scott [Saturday], and obviously he’s phenomenal. It’s going to be a fun weekend. He’s a good dude to play with. He’s chill and relaxed. We have a lot of good fun out there.” — Thomas Walsh
“It was a really good day. A lot different than [Thursday]. A lot more stress-free. I hit it really good, had a lot of birdie looks and overall I played well.” — Scott Stevens
“There are huge ramifications. I can control my own destiny, which is nice. If I win this tournament, that would mean I’m No. 1 on the points list for the year and full status for the Korn Ferry (Tour) next year.” — Scott Stevens
“At the beginning of the year, that’s the goal. So, that would be huge and a lot of fun and a big step in chasing my dream of getting to the PGA TOUR.” — Scott Stevens
“The scores are not super low. It’s such a tough course, and anybody can win. I’m just going to have to focus on my own game because there is a lot of golf left.” — Scott Stevens
“I’ve just worked really hard on my game, and I’m starting to really believe in myself. Putting myself in contention a lot has helped. I feel like I’ve shown a lot of consistency this year, too. Making every cut was a big goal of mine starting the season. Obviously to win was a goal, too. I’m slowly taking those off. I feel like I’m playing some really good golf right now.”” — Wil Bateman
“I’m in a good position right now. I’m just going to try to keep doing my best. Obviously, it would be a big one (to win), but I’ll try to focus on [Saturday] first and then after that we’ll see where I’m at.” — Étienne Papineau
“I think it’s good. I’ve been building on this. I’ve been driving it phenomenally, and I thought today was just as good (as the first round). I didn’t iron it as well today, but from 150 yards and in I wedged it really well.” — Thomas Walsh
Second-Round Weather: Warm and sunny, with a high of 27. Wind E at 12-14 kph.