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Players put it all on the line at the CRMC Championship presented by Gertens

PGA Tour Canada PGA Tour Canada - PGA Tour Canada

BRAINERD, Minnesota – When players begin competition in this week’s CRMC Championship presented by Gertens, they will be entering the final full-field event in the PGA TOUR Canada season. Time and opportunities are running out for them to push their way into the top five of the Fortinet Cup standings that guarantees status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour.

The sense of urgency will be felt throughout the field this week when PGA TOUR Canada plays its only event in the United States at Cragun’s Dutch Legacy Championship Course. Only this week’s CRMC Championship and next week’s Fortinet Cup Championship, limited to the top 60 players on the points list, remain on the schedule.

“There’s only two tournaments left and everybody’s gunning for that top five because that can secure what goes on for next year,” said Hayden Springer, who won last week’s CentrePort Canada Rail Park Manitoba Open and moved into seventh place. “That’s the goal, to finish out these last two tournaments strong.”

Sam Choi moved into first place in the Fortinet Cup race last week when he placed third in Manitoba. Davis Lamb, a two-time winner, dropped into second place after missing the cut. Choi holds a 93-point advantage over Lamb.

Canadian Etienne Papineau, runner-up last week moved up two spots into third place. Stuart Macdonald, who skipped last week because his wife was delivering their first child, and John Pak, who missed the cut last week, are No. 4 and No. 5.

“Knowing that I’m a good amount of points ahead of third, fourth and fifth, that kind of frees me up,” Choi said. “But I’m still going to attack the ball.”

A victory, which is worth 500 points this week, would propel any player into contention for the top five. That’s what happened last week for Springer, who moved up 44 points in the standings with his victory in Manitoba. A win by anyone currently in the top 35 would likely move them into the top five.

That would be the case for friends and Wisconsin natives George Kneiser, who is No. 16 on the points list, and Thomas Longbella, who is No. 22. Both players missed the cut in the event last year, but were on the grounds Monday to check out the course. They agreed that, while the stakes are high, they must avoid thinking too far ahead and focus on simply playing good golf.

Kneiser said, “It’s the same pressure as the other events. It just happens to be the last one. Good golf is good golf.”

Longbella agreed adding, “You try to not put that extra pressure on yourself. You play good golf. Don’t worry about anything else.”

Both men have played well this season. Kneiser, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was runner-up at the season-opening Royal Beach Victoria Open. Longbella, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, is riding a streak of three consecutive top-20 finishes. Longbella tied for 11th at last week’s Manitoba Open.

This year’s tournament will be conducted on the Dutch 18 course, redesigned by Tom Lehman, a Minnesota native and winner of the 1996 Open Championship. One of the nines is completely new to the event. Players will find the par-3s and par-5s play a bit longer and Lehman estimates the course could play as many as two strokes tougher.

“The course is a way better golf course than it used to be,” Lehman said. “These guys are so good. Maybe the scores will be a little more honest, but overall they’ll probably shoot some really low scores.”

The final three holes – two reachable par-5s sandwiched around a short par-3 – could lead to a shootout on the final day – and even more late movement on the points list.

“On one hand you would like to have a more difficult finish, but on the other hand it makes for a lot of excitement,” Lehman said. “If you’re coming down to the wire with a whole bunch of guys with a chance, it’s going to be really fun to see who can create the most fireworks.”

At this event last year, Jake Knapp was one of those players who used the final three holes to his advantage. The eventual 2022 CRMC Championship winner, Knapp was a combined 13-under on Nos. 16, 17 and 18 through his four rounds and it’s those holes that played a significant role in securing his 26-under victory at Cragun’s Legacy Courses. Knapp is playing the Korn Ferry Tour this season and ranks 13th on the points list, with eight top-10 finishes.