KITCHENER, Ontario—Earlier in the week, Thomas Walsh described having two different seasons this year. His 2022 campaign began in 2021 with success in Q-School that resulted in Walsh earning Korn Ferry Tour status. Although he had good momentum going into the year, as the season progressed, the 26-year-old from High Point, North Carolina, and current Jacksonville, Florida, resident, felt he was so far behind the proverbial eight ball that to stay and try to get into Korn Ferry Tour tournaments wasn’t the best option.
After playing in 15 Korn Ferry Tour events and making six cuts, Walsh opted to “rebuild his golf game midseason” and began playing on PGA TOUR Canada. By his own admission, he has played “pretty phenomenally.”
A move north proved beneficial as Walsh has placed second twice and third once in his five tournaments since the end of July.
Now, Walsh is on the cusp of winning the Fortinet Cup Championship and securing once again Korn Ferry Tour membership. At 11-under through 54 holes, he holds a four-shot lead over Wil Bateman at Deer Ridge Golf Club.
Walsh had four birdies and one bogey Saturday to distance himself on the leaderboard.
“I think it just means that I’ve played well, and I’ve played consistent,” Walsh said. “I’ve just waited it out, trying to let birdies come to me. I hit every fairway today.”
After making 10 consecutive pars to start his day, Walsh then reeled off all of his birdies in succession. He bogeyed the 15th hole and then parred in.
Those in closest pursuit weren’t as fortunate. Bateman (7-under) had five birdies and an eagle but was stymied by five bogeys. Joe Highsmith, Jeffrey Kang and Scott Stevens, who are tied for third at 6-under, had some ups and downs as well.
Highsmith birdied five holes. However, he also had two bogeys and a double bogey on his way to a 1-under 69.
“Hopefully I can tighten things up a little bit,” Highsmith said as he prepares to begin the final round five behind Walsh.
Kang had better results. He climbed back into contention with five birdies and an eagle. The Californian bogeyed just one hole while moving up 15 positions.
Stevens, who entered the round one stroke behind Walsh, had double bogeys on No. 6 and No. 7. By round’s end, Stevens netted four birdies to stay in the hunt, shooting a 1-over 71.
“I had to fight for sure. Really, I just hit two bad shots. One was in the water on the par-3 and I hit it in a bad spot on seven. I played really well after that. I settled down,” Stevens said. “I slowed down a little bit. To be able to fight back and stay in the golf tournament was huge. I take a lot of confidence from that.”
Sunday’s finale will be accompanied by the awarding of several accolades. For starters, the tournament champion will receive $40,500 and 600 Fortinet Cup points. The latter will likely go a long way in determining the overall Fortinet Cup champion, who will receive a $25,000 bonus, 2023 Korn Ferry Tour membership and an invite to the PGA TOUR’s RBC Canadian Open next summer.
Walsh is in position to possibly grab both titles, but winning the Fortinet Cup Championship is a must, the only part of the points chase that he can control.
“It would mean a lot, obviously. That wasn’t my goal coming up here. I didn’t even have that intention. I was just trying to play some golf and get ready for (Korn Ferry Tour) Q-School,” he said. “I feel good about my game. I feel confident in what I’m doing.”
Even so, Walsh is eager to get on the first fairway Sunday. Then it’s all about giving himself, as he says, birdie looks, tap-ins for pars to “get a little stretch going. The rest will take care of itself, hopefully,” he added.
Did you know Wil Bateman is trying to become the second Canadian to win PGA TOUR Canada Player of the Year? Tied for second in the Fortinet Cup standings and alone in second place in the Fortinet Cup Championship with 18 holes remaining, Bateman, the winner earlier this year in his hometown of Edmonton, has a great shot of joining Mackenzie Hughes (2013) with that honor.
How the Canadians fared
Wil Bateman of Alberta fired a 68 in the third round and moved into second place overall and came a step closer to securing his 2023 Korn Ferry Tour membership. He is the best-performing Canadian of the nine in this week’s field.
|2||Wil Bateman||70-65-68-203 (7-under)|
|15||Myles Creighton||70-70-68-208 (2-under)|
|T21||Etienne Papineau||69-65-76-210 (even)|
|T21||Joey Savoie||69-69-72-210 (even)|
|T28||Chris Crisologo||71-70-71-212 (2-over)|
|T28||Brendan MacDougall||71-69-72-212 (2-over)|
|T28||Sudarshan Yellmaraju||72-72-68-212 (2-over)|
|T48||Jared du Toit||73-75-71-219 (9-over)|
|T50||Chris R. Wilson||71-76-73-220 (10-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||1|
|T2||Noah Goodwin (U.S.)||1,054||5|
|4||Scott Stevens (U.S.)||972||3|
|5||Ryan Gerard (U.S.)||845||6|
|6||Danny Walker (U.S.)||743||8|
|7||Brian Carlson (U.S.)||679||9|
|8||Thomas Walsh (U.S.)||669||2|
|9||Ian Holt (U.S.)||666||10|
|10||Joe Highsmith (U.S.)||663||7|
Jeffrey Kang, Brian Carlson and Gavin Hall not only turned in the best score of the day, 6-under 64s, but their 6-under showings are the best scores of the tournament. Entering the final round, Kang is tied for third, Carlson is tied for 21st and Hall is tied for 28th.
Scott Stevens, alone in second when the third round began, dropped down the leaderboard midway through his front nine, when he made back-to-back double bogeys, starting on the sixth hole. Stevens, fourth in the Fortinet Cup standings, fell to 4-over at that point then clawed back, with three birdies, ending his day at 1-over and tied for third.
Fans are used to this by now as it was more of the same from Joe Highsmith. The former Pepperdine star shot a 1-under 69 for his 16th consecutive PGA TOUR Canada round in the 60s. Highsmith will enter the final round tied for third, five shots behind Thomas Walsh.
Current Fortinet Cup points leader Jake Knapp enjoyed his first under-par round of the week, shooting a 1-under 69 Saturday that left him tied for 33rd, at 3-over. He’s currently projected to fall from the top spot to No. 4 at season’s end.
Five players have three rounds in the 60s this week: Joe Highsmith, Rhett Rasmussen, Nolan Ray, Tyler Strafaci and Thomas Walsh.
Brian Carlson shot a second-round 79 to fall from contention after he opened with a 3-under 67. Carlson certainly improved Saturday. The former Purdue Boilermaker fired a seven-birdie, one-bogey 64, and his 15-stroke improvement is the best one-round-to-the-next upgrade this season, bettering the previous mark of 14 strokes, held by Matt Echelmeier and TravisTrace. With 18 holes to play, Carlson is tied for 22nd after beginning the day tied for 42nd. In addition, Gavin Hall had a 14-stroke improvement Saturday (78-64).
Nolan Ray and Tyler Strafaci played together for a third consecutive day, and once again they matched each other on the scoreboard. They have both turned in rounds of 69-67-69 this week, and they are tied for sixth, six shots shy of overall leader Thomas Walsh.
Once again, Deer Ridge Golf Club’s 18th hole played as the most-difficult hole, with a stroke average on the par-4 of 4.776. The par-4 opening hole was also once again the second-most difficult, players averaging 4.397 Saturday.
Heard in the locker room
“It was tough out there. I was just trying to hit it to 20 feet. The greens are faster, the wind was blowing—gusting to 20-25 (miles per hour) today. It was pretty firm. So, I was just trying to give myself birdie opportunities.” — Thomas Walsh
“The whole course is great. I mean No. 1 and No. 18 are just really (tough) holes, and there are plenty of those in between.” — Joe Highsmith
“I’m just going to go out there and try my best and focus on what I can control. I know it’s probably going to be one of the toughest rounds in my career, but I’m just going to try and handle it the best I can and focus on my breathing.” — Wil Bateman
“If I can focus on what I can control, the chips will fall and we’ll see what happens.” — Wil Bateman
“It’s going to take a really good round of golf. Playing with (Thomas Walsh) the last two days, he’s played really solid. He played really well today. I will try not to force anything. You never know what can happen on the Sunday of a Tour championship.” — Scott Stevens
“Hopefully I can get out there and drive well tomorrow and then just put my head down and keep going. We’ll see what happens.” — Thomas Walsh
“I just had to forget about those two holes and move on. I feel like in the past, I would try to get it all back in one swing, which you cannot do. I just told myself, It’s a tough golf course. I can make some birdies coming in and try to gain momentum. It paid off today. I’ve definitely learned from the past.” — Scott Stevens on his back-to-back double bogeys
Third-Round Weather: Sunny and warm, with a high of 26. Wind S at 5-7 kph.