TORONTO — Carl Yuan moved into position to turn around a forgettable rookie year on the PGA Tour, shooting a 5-under 67 in cool, rainy conditions on Friday to take a 1-shot lead at the midway point of the RBC Canadian Open.
Two-time defending champion Rory McIlroy gave himself a chance heading into the weekend at Oakdale. He shot 67 and was 3 shots back of Yuan’s two-day total of 9-under 135.
“I felt like I putted pretty well [Thursday]. But iron play was better, wedges were definitely better, got it in play a little more off the tee,” said McIlroy, who had never seen the course before the opening round. “So yeah, it was a better, more solid round.”
Corey Conners, seeking to become the first Canadian to win his national open since 1954, shot 69 and was 1 shot back. Joining him were Tyrrell Hatton — who shot 64 to set the course record for Oakdale’s composite routing — C.T. Pan (66) and Aaron Rai (69).
“Really happy with the start,” Conners said. “Fun playing in front of the Canadian fans. Just enjoying the walk out there.”
Conners is coming off a tie for 12th in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
“I would say this week I’ve been a lot more relaxed than even I was there and I felt like I was quite relaxed at the PGA Championship,” he said. “So I’m feeling good about my game and able to play with freedom and confidence. I’m just having a lot of fun.”
Yuan, a 26-year-old from China who played college golf at Washington, has made 7 of 20 cuts this season, with his best finish a tie for 21st at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. With his playing status very much in jeopardy, Yuan is trying to block out the stress and have fun on the course.
“That’s my goal coming into the week. That’s my No. 1 goal,” Yuan said. “Not a result goal, just like being in the present, hitting shot by shot and, yeah, being out here trying to have the most fun. All of it.”
Yuan said the weather reminded him of his college days in the Pacific Northwest.
“I think this is right up my alley,” said Yuan, who was born in Dalian, China. “I went to school in Seattle. … That’s exactly what we deal with in the wintertime.”
Brendon Todd and first-round co-leader Justin Lower were among six players 2 shots back on a bunched leaderboard. Justin Rose, paired with McIlroy the first two days, shot consecutive 69s to match him at 6 under.
Former top-ranked amateur Ludvig Aberg made the cut in his pro debut. The former Texas Tech player from Sweden was 3 under after an opening 69 and a second-round 72.