Chants of “Corrr-ayyyy! Cor-ay! Cor-ay! Cor-ay!” to the tune of the famous Ole! soccer song followed Corey Conners up to the 18th green during the second round of the RBC Canadian Open.
The product of Listowel, Ont., responded well to the chants from hundreds of fans. He two-putted on the challenging green at Oakdale Golf and Country Club to pull within a shot of the lead at the men’s national golf championship.
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“Lots of chants out there, but definitely that one was new,” said Conners with a chuckle. “I’m really embracing the Canadian support.”
Conners shot a 3-under 69 on Friday to sit in a tie for second with Taiwan’s C.T. Pan, England’s Aaron Rai and Tyrrell Hatton at 8 under overall.
China’s Carl Yuan turned in a 5-under round to sit atop the leaderboard one shot ahead of that group.
“Really happy with the start,” said Conners, who was tied for the lead after the first round. “It’s been a lot of fun out here this week.
“Fun playing in front of the Canadian fans. Just enjoying the walk out there.”
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Yuan said after his round in the morning wave that his goal is always to have fun on the course.
“That’s my goal coming into the week. That’s my No. 1 goal,” said Yuan of keeping it light. “Not a result goal, just being in the present, hitting shot by shot and, yeah, being out here trying to have the most fun. All of it.”
Conners was in the mix at the PGA Championship last month and tied for 12th. He said his cool demeanour paid off there and is also keeping him focused at the Canadian Open, which most Canadian players consider a fifth major.
“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.”
It has been almost 70 years since a Canadian last won the men’s national golf championship. Pat Fletcher won in 1954 at Vancouver’s Point Grey Golf and Country Club.
Although Conners is in the best position to end that drought, he’s far from the only Canadian in the hunt as eight of his countrymen made the cut.
Adam Hadwin (68) of Abbotsford, B.C., and Roger Sloan (70) of Merritt, B.C., were tied for 17th at 5 under.
Edmonton’s Wil Bateman, playing in his first Canadian Open and only his second PGA Tour event, rocketed up the leaderboard with a 6-under round. That put Bateman at 4 under overall and tied for 23rd.
“When they bring out the cameras and the little fuzzy little mike, you know you’re doing something right,” joked Bateman. “But I just tried to just stay in the moment. I’m just really excited for the weekend.”
After two days of air quality advisories due to forest fires raging in Ontario and Quebec, steady rain cleared the air at Oakdale in Toronto’s northwest corner. Between the lack of sunlight and cold rain, the temperature didn’t go above 17 C.
“I think this is right up my alley,” said Yuan, who was born in Dalian, China. “I went to school in Seattle at the University of Washington.
“That’s exactly what we deal with in the wintertime.”
Conners said that the course’s conditions have been great, although with a 9-under overall score topping the leaderboard, it’s clear that Oakdale is proving to be a challenge.
“I feel like the golf course and the greens have sped up and the rough has continued to grow and become thicker from when I saw it a few weeks ago,” said Conners. “Also just tournament conditions; it’s playing a little trickier, but there’s definitely some opportunities.
“If the weather stays nice, I think that you can shoot some good numbers this weekend.”