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Clark still leads after two rounds at RBC Canadian Open, fans serenade local players

TORONTO — Punishing, deep rough and strong winds kept scores high at the RBC Canadian Open and helped Wyndham Clark hold on to his lead at the PGA Tour event for a second day.
Wyndham Clark hits his tee shot on the 14th hole during round two of the Canadian Open at St. George's Golf and Country Club in Toronto on Friday, June 10, 2022. Clark shot an even-par round on Friday to sit at 7 under overall and hold on to his one-shot lead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO — Punishing, deep rough and strong winds kept scores high at the RBC Canadian Open and helped Wyndham Clark hold on to his lead at the PGA Tour event for a second day.

The American shot an even-par 70 on Friday afternoon to sit at 7-under-par 133 overall and maintain his one-shot lead. He saved par on No. 18 when his shot from a greenside bunker went nearly 49 feet and stopped within five feet of the hole.

"Honestly, I played really good. It was tough out there. It was windy, there was some tough pin placement," said Clark, who was still marvelling at his shot on 18. 

"I would love to say I was trying to do what I did, but I was trying to punt a little bit out to the right and somehow how I came into the ball, it like plopped up to the left and landed in the rough and trickled down to four feet.

"It was definitely the best save I've had of the year."

Clark also led after the first round and said he's not going to change his tactics for the third.

"Really no different than the last couple days," said Clark. "I played great. I had some little mishaps coming in, but other than that I played some great golf for 36 holes. 

"I think if I do that again I think I'll have a great chance come Sunday."

Defending champion Rory McIlroy (68), Alex Smalley (67), Keith Mitchell (67) and Jim Knous (67) all moved up to finish the second round tied with Matt Fitzpatrick for second at 6-under.

"The rough is very penal, the greens are tricky, the wind's up, it's drying out a little bit because of the wind," said McIlroy. "All of a sudden, you've got a pretty testing golf course."

Aaron Cockerill of Stony Mountain, Man., and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., both shot 68 to finish the day tied for 21st at 2 under. Cockerill is the highest-rated player on the European-based DP World Tour and is making his PGA Tour debut.

"First PGA Tour event and I'm in a decent position going into the weekend," said Cockerill. "Kind of where I want to be and see if we can throw a low one on the board tomorrow and see what happens."

McIlroy won the Canadian Open in 2019. The next two editions of the national men's golf championship were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was in a group with Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., and American Justin Thomas. That trio was following an all-Canadian threesome featuring Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, and Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont.

Both groups were greeted by fans with raucous cheers, chants, and even singing. From the 16th hole — dubbed the Rink for its hockey-themed decorations — to the final hole at St. George's Golf and Country Club, fans went wild for the two trios.

"Everyone wants to be loved, I guess, and it's nice to feel that love here," said McIlroy. "I think people are just happy to have the Canadian Open back, it's been three pretty long years."

Hadwin (70) was tied for 33rd at 1 under. Adam Svensson (68) of Surrey, B.C., and Conners (69) were tied for 45th at even par. Hughes (75) was in a tie for 56th at 1 over.

Weir missed the cut by a shot after a 70 left him at 2 over overall.

As Hadwin, Hughes and Weir approached the 18th green, fans began to sing "O Canada," only pausing when one of the Canadians needed to make a shot before continuing their rendition of the national anthem.

"It's incredible. It's been a couple long years and they're hyped, they're ready to go," said Hadwin. "It's amazing to play in front of, it's great that they're coming out and supporting.

"I imagine that the weekend will be much the same."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press