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Linton rides the birdie train to 17-under, takes lead heading into the weekend

Ryan Linton Ryan Linton - Getty Images

WINDSOR, Ontario – The birdies came in bunches on Friday at Ambassador Golf Club, with the USA’s Ryan Linton adding 10 more to his tally to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the Windsor Championship.

Linton followed his opening 62 with an 8-under 63 to sit one stroke ahead of Canadian Stuart Macdonald at the halfway point of PGA TOUR Canada’s seventh event in Windsor, Ontario. His 17-under total, which includes 18 birdies, one eagle and three bogeys, is the lowest first 36 holes recorded this season.

“It was another good day out there, rolling it well again, staying in the present, just focusing on the next shot,” Linton said.

Vancouver’s Macdonald, the first-round leader, followed his 60 with a 66 to sit in second place at 16-under. USA’s Joey Vrzich shot 62 and jumped 13 spots into a third-place tie at 14-under with Sam Choi, who also shot 62. Tied for fifth at 13-under is Joseph Juszczyk (67), Alex Scott (64) and Mexico’s Luis Gerardo Garza (62). Tied for eighth at 12-under is Derek Oland (64) and Jeffrey Kang (62).

Linton, of Lake Forest, Illinois, who - in addition to his 10 birdies - also recorded two bogeys on his card on Friday, has been successful forgetting about any bad shots and just keep grinding.

“Just letting go of a bad shot, a bad break,” Linton said. “It’s a part of golf, a part of life. You just deal with it. There’s not a thing you can do about it. They are what they are and they’re done.”

Macdonald, who won the Commissionaires Ottawa Open two weeks ago, did most of his damage on the second nine, when he birdied the first three holes.

“I’m hitting it pretty good for the most part,” he said. “If I can get those 15-20-footers to fall and those bonus putts, it’s going to be a good weekend.”

Vrzich, of La Mesa, California, posted his lowest score in 15 PGA TOUR Canada events. The former Pepperdine University standout had an eagle and seven birdies on his clean scorecard.

“I tried to just not make any bogeys today,” Vrzich said. “I hit every single green and I was 17-for-17 until I absolutely shanked the last one on the last hole. Thankfully I got that up and down to keep it bogey-free, so that’s nice.”

Choi, of Malibu, California, birdied his first four holes and closed with birdies on six of his final eight. He had 11 birdies and one bogey in shooting 62, matching his best round on PGA TOUR Canada.

“Two rounds to go and, knowing this course, you’ve got to keep attacking flags,” Choi said. “Try to make more birdies than others. It’ll be a fun one.”

Steele, of Kingston, Ontario, had nine birdies and shot 31 on both sides. It was the lowest tournament round of his professional career and came after a mental re-set after Thursday’s opening score of 69.

“I’m not going to lie, I was pretty frustrated when I got done Thursday,” Steele said. “It was a really steady day that I didn’t get as much out of as I would have wanted. The low scores are on the board, so I said earlier this morning that I basically was going to try to grab one.”

Steele stayed patient, hit his approach shots to the right spots, and made his putts.

“I’m proud that I stayed really disciplined and allowed the putter to work,” Steele added. “I hit some really good shots where I had some good looks. I wasn’t aiming at sticks all over, trying to force it. It was just kind of if it was going to happen, it would happen. If not, then it wouldn’t.”

Tied for ninth at 11-under 131 are Canadians Lawren Rowe (68), Raoul Menard (68), Matthew Anderson (66) and Noah Steele – who jumped 86 spots with his 62 – PGA TOUR University graduate Derek Hitchner (65), Luke Schniederjans (66), Cameron Sisk (62), and China’s Charles Wang (64).

Davis Shore, of Knoxville, Tennessee, who won last week’s Osprey Valley Open, failed to make the cut, but produced perhaps the best shot of the tournament, if not the season. Shore made a historic ace at the par-4 15th hole when he hit a drive 290 yards and into the cup.

Shore had reached the green with a 3-wood on Thursday, but opted to hit driver on Friday since the hole was playing into the wind.

“It was kind of a perfect driver and I hit it really well,” Shore said. “It was right at the pin but the thought of it going in never crossed my mind, to be honest, until it actually went it. I think it hit the flagstick pretty hard because we could hear it hit the pin from the tee and that’s a long ways. I think it just smashed the flagstick and dropped straight into the hole. It was pretty incredible.”

The crowd behind the green reacted with hoots and applause and immediately let Shore that the ball went in the hole.

“The people behind the green were going crazy,” Shore said. “We definitely knew it went in, which is cool to be able to see.”

It was the fifth hole-in-one of Shore’s career but the first in competition. He had albatross on a par-5, but never on a par-4.