Chill in the Air Doesn’t Hinder Shaun’s Hot Start
CALGARY, Alberta – As the sun crept over the horizon, Corey Shaun embarked on his quest at the Fortinet Cup Championship with an unwavering determination. Despite the brisk morning air, Shaun’s golf game ignited on the fairways of the Country Hills Golf Club’s Talons Course. His electrifying performance saw him card a stellar 8-under 63, taking the coveted first-round lead in the climactic finale of the PGA TOUR Canada’s schedule.
Shaun’s Sizzling Start
Shaun’s exceptional journey commenced with an eagle on the second hole, setting the tone for his remarkable round. Speaking of his explosive start, Shaun exclaimed, “I got off to a really good start. I hit it close on No. 2 to make eagle, and then I had a tap-in for birdie at No. 3. Before you know it you’re 3-under.”
The Pursuit of Points
This week, the stakes soar as players vie to amass enough points to clinch a spot among the top five in the Fortinet Cup standings. Such a feat would secure them an exemption on the prestigious 2024 Korn Ferry Tour. For those not in contention for the top five, a spot in the top 25 is the next best prize, granting an exemption into the second round of PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry.
Shaun’s Leap of Faith
Ranked 46th on the points list as he entered the tournament, Shaun’s victory would catapult him to the fifth spot. Elated by his performance, Shaun stated, “Going into today I was relatively relaxed because there’s no cutline.”
A Strong Contender Emerges
Shaun boasts a slender one-shot lead over Eric Lilliboe, who sizzled with a 64. Following closely are Alex Scott and Brian Richey, both carding 65. A five-way tie at 66 includes Carr Vernon, Jason Hong, Hayden Springer, Sudarshan Yellamaraju, and Yi Cao, the winner of last week’s CRMC Championship.
Lilliboe’s Record-Setting Round
Lilliboe’s round was studded with brilliance, highlighted by an astonishing 29 on the back nine, a career-first. The impeccable stretch featured five consecutive birdies, starting from the 13th hole.
Scott’s Lucky Strokes
Alex Scott’s round featured a sensational eagle at No. 7, aided by a favourable bounce off the hill. He continued to shine with a chip-in birdie at No. 15 after flying the green. Scott reminisced, “There was some luck involved. I guess I had a couple things go my way.”
Despite an initial bogey, Brian Richey displayed resilience with seven birdies. His round culminated with a spectacular 20-foot putt from the fringe for a birdie on the final hole.
Fortinet Cup Standings Update
Notably, the top four positions in the Fortinet Cup standings remained unchanged after the first round. Sam Choi (1st) and Davis Lamb (2nd) opened with 71s. Etienne Papineau (3rd) shot 68, tying for 15th, while Hayden Springer (4th) shone with a 66, tying for fifth. However, Stuart Macdonald (5th) carded a 71 and slid to No. 7 on the projected standings.
Shaun’s Potential Feat
An intriguing tidbit: If Corey Shaun secures victory at the Fortinet Cup Championship, he would become the sole first-round leader to clinch a tournament win this season.
Among the 11 Canadians in the tournament, Sudarshan Yellamaraju and Jared du Toit dazzled by finishing among the top 10. Here’s a snapshot of their positions after the first round:
- Sudarshan Yellamaraju: Tied for 5th with a 5-under 66.
- Jared du Toit: Tied for 10th with a 4-under 67.
- Etienne Papineau: Tied for 15th with a 3-under 68.
- Myles Creighton: Tied for 20th with a 2-under 69.
- Brendan MacDougall: Tied for 32nd with a 1-under 70.
- Matthew Anderson: Tied for 32nd with a 1-under 70.
- Jimmy Jones: Tied for 44th with an even-par 71.
- Joey Savoie: Tied for 44th with an even-par 71.
- Stuart Macdonald: Tied for 44th with an even-par 71.
- Lawren Rowe: Tied for 54th with a 1-over 72.
Eric Lilliboe’s 29 was the first of his career and marked the 16th such occurrence on PGA TOUR Canada this season. Notable mentions go to Stuart Macdonald and Taylor Funk, who both had 28s this season.
Yi Cao, the previous week’s victor at the CRMC Championship presented by Gertens, continued his stellar form with an opening 66. Impressively, he has gone 83 holes without a bogey, with the last one occurring on the seventh hole during the first round of the CRMC Championship.
Tyler Strafaci’s resolve shone through as he defied a rib injury sustained last week. He mentioned, “The injury sucks, but there’s no reason why I can’t get in contention if I play well.” Strafaci, the 2020 U.S. Amateur champion, notched two eagles on Thursday and carded a 69.
The first round unfolded under partly sunny skies with a cool start that eventually warmed to a high of 31°C. Winds varied between 7-15 km/h.