Springer, Hitchner tied for lead heading into final day of Fortinet Cup Championship
CALGARY, Alberta – Hayden Springer and Derek Hitchner, the veteran and the rookie, will go head-to-head for the second-straight day on Sunday with a chance to win the Fortinet Cup Championship – and possibly a lot more.
Springer, the 36-hole leader, shot 67 on Saturday and Hitchner shot 66 at the Country Hills Golf Club’s Talon Course, leaving both players tied for the lead at 18-under 196 and holding a three-shot lead over the field with one round left in the PGA TOUR Canada season.
“It’ll be fun to do it again tomorrow and see what happens,” Springer said.
A victory by Springer would elevate him to No. 1 in the Fortinet Cup standings, guarantee him fully exempt status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour and reward him with a $25,000 bonus. A win by Hitchner would leave him somewhere among the top five on the points list, making him partially exempt for the Korn Ferry Tour.
“It’s really cool to be in that position,” Springer said. “I’m going to try to do everything that I do the exact same way I always do it.”
Hitchner said, “It’s awesome. I’m just super grateful to be here in the first place, but also to have a chance going into tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I still need some help if I was to win just to get into the top five. Some it’s out of my control.”
The leaders enjoy a three-shot lead over Canadian Jared du Toit, who shot a 64 on Saturday. Eric Lilleboe (69) and Alex Scott (70) are tied for fourth at 13-under, with Eric McCardle, Yi Cao and Canadians Noah Steele, Etienne Papineau and Myles Creighton tied for sixth at 12-under.
Springer, a professional since 2019 from Trophy Club, Texas, had a few missteps along the way, most notably a double-bogey at No. 12 and a bogey at No. 17, which allowed Hitchner to temporarily take the lead. Springer birdied the final hole to move back into a tie.
Hitchner, a rookie from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who gained eligibility through PGA TOUR University, got hot with three-straight birdies on the front side. He bogeyed No. 12, but came back to make two more birdies and shoot 66.
“I felt like we both played nicely on the front nine,” Hitchner said. “We were kind of trading birdies. He made an eagle at No. 7 and I birdied No. 7 and No. 8. It was great. The back nine was probably a little shaky for both of us, but I felt like we steadied the ship a little bit. It was a blast.”
Du Toit, the hometown kid from Calgary, had eight birdies and one bogey in shooting 64, his second-best round of the season. He is looking for his first top-10 since the season opening Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by Times Colonist. Du Toit is seeking his first win on PGA TOUR Canada in 63 starts.
“It’s kind of hard to win anywhere,” du Toit said. “You’ve got to beat a lot of guys. I’m going to lean on that a little bit. I was saying earlier this week that I’ve probably played this course more than almost anybody here. Really going to lean on that experience as well and we’ll try and shoot a good, good number.”
Springer and Hitchner played together for the first time on Saturday. On Sunday, they’ll do it again with the stakes much higher. It almost seems like a match play situation. Springer may have an experience advantage as he closed strong on the final day to win the CentrePort Canada Rail Park Manitoba Open just a couple weeks ago. But Hitchner gained plenty of match-play experience during his career at Pepperdine University.
“Getting it done and winning, it can be tough,” Springer added. “I’ve already been able to do that, so I can definitely draw on that and know what it feels like, sleeping tonight and waking up tomorrow. The last few weeks I’ve kind of been hanging out toward the back, so I’ve been gaining more experience in this position, which is really good for me. I don’t know if it makes all that much difference. Everybody’s really good, so it’ll come down to who plays better tomorrow.”