BRAINERD, Minnesota – Yi Cao almost decided not to play this week because of a sore back. Now he finds himself in position to win his first PGA TOUR Canada event.
Cao shot an 8-under 62 on Friday, the low round of the tournament, thus far, at Cragun’s Dutch Legacy Course, and sits at 12-under-par 128 with a five-shot lead at the midway point of the CRMC Championship presented by Gertens.
Cao began the week in 55th place in the Fortinet Point standings and needed to make the cut to qualify for next week’s Fortinet Championship. Now that he’s checked that box, the Delta, British Columbia, resident could move into contention to climb near the top-five and earn the much-coveted status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour.
“I came this close to not playing this week,” Cao said. “I was barely able to swing my club Thursday morning. I feel terrible. I’ve never had this feeling before.”
The five-way tie for second place at 7-under includes Reid Davenport, Drew Nesbitt, Davis Shore, Mason Glinski and Dylan Healey. Tied for seventh at 6-under are J.T. Griffin, Blake Tomlinson, Sam Jean, Corey Shaun. Brendan MacDougall, Gavin Hall and first-round leader Ryan Orr are tied for 11th at 5-under.
With the help of some Advil, Cao was able to get through the first round to shoot 66. And he began play on Friday with low expectations.
“My caddie asked me how I was feeling and I said, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never taken Advil before a round,” Cao said. “I had no expectations. I knew if I wasn’t playing well this week, I wouldn’t be able to play next week, too. At this point there was really nothing for me to lose.”
Cao, 32, started on the back nine and finished his first-nine holes by going birdie-birdie-eagle and turned in 30. He added three more birdies on his final nine.
This is his 48th career start on PGA TOUR Canada. He won the 2020 Canada Life Series at Bear Mountain Valley Course.
Healey, of Tucson, Arizona, had eight birdies and one bogey on his card. He finished with birdies on the final three holes to shoot a 7-under 63.
“I’m just trying to trust myself,” Healey said. “I’ve been pretty consistent this year. I know I have it in me and my putter warmed up today and that was the difference.”
He birdied three of the four par-3 holes and said, “It always feels like you’re stealing when you make a two.”
Davenport, of Austin, Texas, a rookie who qualified via PGA TOUR University, shot a 66, despite a double-bogey on the par-3 15th. Undeterred, he finished with three-consecutive birdies.
“It was a lot like the first round,” Davenport said. “It’s just stay patient. It’s an angles game really, so just taking the widest angles, let the wind kind of take it and hitting some shots into the wind, curving it, and then just telling yourself good things. It’s pretty hard to do that out here, but that’s what I’ve done.”
Nesbitt, of Toronto, Ontario, had seven birdies and one bogey in shooting his six-under 64. He started on the back nine and finished his round by making birdies on three of the last four holes.
“I tried to stay patient all day. That was the key, just understanding that it’s not easy out there,” Nesbitt said. “It was a little less breezy than yesterday, which is nice. I knew good shots were coming and I just stayed within myself and really trusted what I was doing and committed to all my golf shots.”
Glinski, of Oxnard, Calif., started on the back nine as well. He birdied No. 16-18 and shot 31.
“This week I’ve taken a step back and said I just have to play golf,” Glinski said. “There’s no sense in getting all worked up.”
The cut came at even-par, the highest score of the season. There are 67 players who qualified for the weekend.
Fortinet Cup leader Sam Choi shot 67 and easily made the cut at 3-under. The others currently in the top five, which guarantees at least some status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour, had mixed results No. 2 Davis Lamb rallied to shoot 2-under in the second round, finishing 1-under through 36 holes and is tied for 37th, and No. 5 John Pak shot even par for the second day in a row to make the cut on the number. No. 3 Etienne Papineau and No. 4 Stuart Macdonald both missed the cut at 5-over.
Fortinet Cup Standings
(Through CentrePort Canada Rail Park Manitoba Open)
|1||Sam Choi (United States)||1,210|
|2||Davis Lamb (United States)||1,117|
|3||Étienne Papineau (Canada)||944|
|4||Stuart Macdonald (Canada)||707|
|5||John Pak (United States)||690|
|6||Devon Bling (United States)||639|
|7||Hayden Springer (United States)||630|
|8||Chris Korte (United States)||593|
|9||Davis Shore (United States)||567|
|10||David Kim (United States)||443|
Hayden Springer, winner of last week’s Manitoba Open, shot even par and stands at 2-under, tied for 25th.
Yi Cao’s five-stroke lead in the second round is the largest lead that any player has held after 36 holes this year. The last time a player was ahead by that margin mid-tournament was last year at the CentrePort Canada Rail Park Manitoba Open when Parker Coody led the competition by five strokes with a 17-under 127 at Southwood Golf & Country Club. Here is a list of the largest 36-hole leads in PGA TOUR Canada history.
|36-Hole Lead||Player||Year, Event|
|5 strokes||Yi Cao||2023, CRMC Championship presented by Gertens|
|5 strokes||Parker Coody||2022, CentrePort Canada Rail Park Manitoba Open|
|5 strokes||Zach Wright||2018, Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open|
|5 strokes||Tyler McCumber||2018, Osprey Valley Open|
|4 strokes||Will Gordon||2019, 1932byBateman Open|
|4 strokes||Hank Lebioda||2017, Mackenzie Investments Open presented by Jaguar Laval|
|4 strokes||Aaron Wise||2016, Freedom 55 Financial Championship|
|4 strokes||Bryn Parry||2015, PC Financial Open|
Dylan Healey, one of the players tied for second, almost quit the game during the winter. He was working as an assistant at Dove Mountain in Tucson, Arizona, and coaching kids. He was mostly playing with co-workers and friends, who encouraged him to return to professional golf. With a current standing of 32, he is already a shoo-in for next week’s Fortinet Championship and has a goal to finish in the top 25 of the points list.
Matt Boldy, a left winger for the NHL Minnesota Wild, shot 79-80 and finished last.
“It’s been a bit of a process. It seems like every time you feel like you make progress mentally, then something brings you back down and you’re going through a bit of a spiral. That’s what I would call the last few weeks. I was able to talk with a sports psychologist and was able to put a plan together, so we’re still in the very early stages of seeing where it all goes, but so far, so good.” – Brendan MacDougall
“I just needed to make a cut. I haven’t been in good rhythm this year. I’ve been on and off and didn’t really play a completely full schedule. I’ve just had a hard time on the first couple of days, so it’s good to play good in the wind yesterday and it was nice to just play a round of golf today instead of having to really fight back for it.” – J.T. Griffin
“Going into this week, it was more or less having nothing to lose, really. I had been hitting the ball nicely the last two or three weeks and I knew that in the back of my mind. So I knew if I just kept my head down and did that, I’d be somewhere up toward the lead. I’m proud of myself going into the weekend, for sure.” – Reid Davenport
“Every event you’re always trying to do the best you can. I missed the cut the last two weeks but I felt my game was alright. There are little things that every golfer has to clean up and so far it’s been good. It’s a challenging course, which I like, and I’m glad I’ve done a good job so far.” – Corey Shaun
“I hit a horrible tee shot left of left and ended up in a bunker on the other golf course They deemed it wasn’t maintained properly. It had footprints and rake stuff everywhere, so I got relief and was able to hit it back into play on the actual hole and get up-and-down for birdie from 100 yards. I was very fortunate. It could easily have been a seven.”— Brendan MacDougall on his birdie at No. 16.
Second-Round Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 88°F (31°C.) Winds out of the SSW 9-12 mph (14-19 kph) and gusts reaching 23 mph (37 kph.)