|American golfer Vince Covello is tied for the lead at the Players Cup after three rounds. Covello sits tied with Chris Killmer at -12, six shots better than the rest of the field at Pine Ridge Golf Course. (Jason Halstead/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - The Players Cup technically uses a stroke play format. On Sunday it will be a match play event.
A pair of Americans, Chris Killmer and Vince Covello, are tied for the lead through three rounds at Pine Ridge Golf Club. They are both 13-under and have a whopping six-stroke lead over a trio of golfers that is tied for third in the $150,000 Canadian Tour event.
It’s unlikely anyone will be able to challenge Killmer and Covello for the $24,000 first prize.
“It’s match play,” said Killmer, who entered the day with a four-shot lead but watched it fizzle after only four holes. “It’ll just be me and Vince slugging it out. I’ll probably be going first quite a bit since he hits it by me, but who knows? I can either be putting on the pressure or taking it off. Hopefully putting it on.”
Covello, 29, led the Players Cup two years ago after 36 holes and again on Saturday night after just 10 holes had been completed due to inclement weather. He played 26 holes on Sunday and finished tied for fifth. Last year he placed sixth.
“I’ve won five times as a pro now, but never out here,” Covello said. “So it’s certainly something that was in my goals and that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Especially at this golf course. I’ve had a couple looks at it, so it’s nice to have another one again this year.”
Covello and Killmer played together in the final group on Saturday in hot and somewhat breezy conditions that allowed only 15 of 64 players to be under par. Covello came storming out of the gates, birdieing the first and then making eagle on the par-5 fourth while Killmer bogeyed. Just like that, they were all square.
“It was a good start,” Covello said. “It’s exactly what I wanted to do, was try and get a couple early and see if I could put some heat on.”
Killmer, 25, kept his composure and took a two-stroke lead when he birdied 14 and 15, but he gave one back with a bogey on 16. Covello then evened it up a second time when he drained a 15-foot birdie putt on 18. Covello had the low round of the day with a 5-under 66. Killmer carded a 70.
“It’s just nice to square the match up there before you get to the final round,” Covello said.
When asked about match play, Covello simply said he was a “good golfer.” Killmer sounded a little more confident. “I’m good at match play,” he said. “I’ve got a good match play record. We’ll see what happens.”
Killmer is getting married next month, but he’s not thinking about the cash.
“It’s going to mean a lot, more than the money or anything like that. It’s a chance to win,” he said. “There’s a ton of good golfers out here, and to be at the top of them all at the end of the week is something that I’ve dreamt about.”
Matt Makinson, of Coquitlam, B.C., is in the group at 7 under. He’s playing on a medical exemption and needs to finish in the top 11 on Sunday to keep his card. That doesn’t mean, however, he’ll be playing it safe.
“Birdies, birdies and more birdies,” he said of his Sunday game plan. “There’s a lot of opportunities out here. You never know. A good round could start getting some thoughts in the leaders’ heads. Pressure does some weird things to people.”