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Jones takes two-shot lead into final round at Crown Isle

Jimmy Jones Jimmy Jones - PGA TOUR Canada

COURTENAY, British Columbia—It looks like it will be a horse race to the finish line for Friday’s last round at Crown Isle Resort for the sixth and final PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament for the 2023 Fortinet Cup.

Four players sit four shots apart heading into the final 18 holes. The medalist will earn full exemption on the Tour for 2023, while the second through ninth place finishers nabs exemption through to the reshuffle about halfway through the campaign. The 10th-to 30th-place finishers will have conditional status.

Jimmy Jones of Lake Cowichan, British Columbia, leads the way after rounds of 72-63-68 for a 203 total, followed by fellow Canadian Max Sear of Victoria, British Columbia who is just two shots back, thanks to scores of 67-69-69.

U.S. player Carr Vernon, who had a share of the first-round lead, is four strokes behind Jones. Vernon bounced back from an even-par 72 on day two with a 3-under 69 Thursday after beginning the tournament with a 66.

Scotsman Callum McNeill followed his electrifying, 12-under 60 Wednesday with a 71 in the third round and is also four back of Jones. Canadian Andrew Harrison, of Camrose, Alberta, (67-72-69) and Austin Fox of the U.S. (67-71-70), are within five strokes of Jones, who began the day tied for the lead.

Jones will attempt to finish things off Friday with some home-advantage-like backing.

“I’ll sleep like a baby, I can guarantee you that. I’ve been waking up before my alarm all week. I’m probably just getting off East Coast time,” said Jones, who will go to bed knowing he’s in a great position.

“It’s from a lot of hard work at home and a lot of people having belief in my game and continuing to give myself chances to make it to that next level. [Friday] will be a great experience for me. It’s going to be a great time and something I’ll be able to take into this year, too,” he stressed.

The top two players are no strangers to each other, both with Vancouver Island ties. Jones tied for seventh at the Crown Isle Q-School last year and Sear was fourth.

“I expect a good time with a lot of chatter. It’s going to be fun,” Jones said of playing with Sear, who made his charge late in the Thursday round.

Sear began play on the back nine and suffered a three-putt bogey on No. 18 (his ninth hole of the day) but rebounded nicely on what most people say is a tougher front nine, with three birdies. Sear had three bogeys and three birdies on his opening nine holes.
“Anytime you win, it obviously helps your confidence, but at the same time I think I made six cuts on this Tour last year, so I know I can compete out here. It’s more so just putting myself in good position and using it as a tool to prepare for things down the road,” Sear said of heading into his final round.

He used the three-putt bogey to his advantage, though, focusing as he made his turn.

“Honestly, I thought the bogey on 18 was beneficial. I’d been hitting a big cut off the tee the first few days, and I finally squared one up. I kind of found something in my swing a little bit. I made a bogey, but I felt it needed to happen. Then going to my back nine, I gave myself some looks and made a few.”

His score after three rounds is identical to where he was at this point in 2022.

“That’s obviously good, and Friday it’s the same thing. Shot by shot, hole by hole; nothing crazy. If I feel like I’m in trouble, just get out of it, and if I feel there’s an opportunity to get aggressive there’s no point in holding back,” said Sear.
It’s the same plan Jones has going this week.

“The idea today was to be 10 out of 10 committed on every swing and be patient as possible,” said Jones, the Tampa-born son of legendary Canadian LPGA golfer Dawn Coe-Jones, who passed away in 2016 from cancer.

He rolled in an eagle putt on the fifth hole and parred the other eight holes to begin his front nine.

“I had the goal today of playing the golf course, (to) see what I could do from [Wednesday] because the toughest days of golf are the ones after you go really deep,” said Jones, who turned it up on his back nine with four birdies, mixed in with two bogeys.