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China's Carl Yuan grabs Canadian Open lead with Tyrrell Hatton on his heels

TORONTO – Chinese rookie Carl Yuan decided not to let the pressure get to him this time as he birdied three of the last four holes to grab a one-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open.

The 26-year-old, who missed the cut in eight of his prior 10 tour starts, fired a five-under 67 to stand on nine-under 135 after 36 holes at Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto.

“Definitely played some great golf,” he said.

“I’ve been like playing like way too technical in the past events on tour this year, which didn’t really get me the good results. So I figure, why not just play freely?

“I had the exact same mindset as yesterday. Just go out, play freely, let the result take care of itself and have fun. It works out good so far. I think I’m going to keep that rolling.”

The world No. 164 made only five cuts in 16 prior season events, but produced his best 36-hole start since placing 21st in January at Hawaii.

His best PGA Tour finish was a share of 17th at Shanghai in 2019.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton, who reeled off five birdies in a row, fired the event’s low round with a 64 to match countryman Aaron Rai (69), C.T. Pan (66) of Chinese Taipei and Canada’s Corey Conners (69) for second on 136.

“I just hit a lot of good shots,” said Pan, the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist who is another Asian hope at this event.

“I gave myself a lot of good opportunities on the greens.”

Conners, in the best 36-hole spot by a Canadian since 2004, hopes to be the first host-nation winner of the event since Pat Fletcher in 1954.

World No. 16 Hatton, a top-20 finisher in his past five starts, answered a bogey at the sixth hole with birdies on the next five holes to match his longest PGA Tour birdie streak.

“A lot of putts went in, which was nice,” said the Briton, who finished second at the 2023 Players Championship.

“The greens were a bit funky this afternoon. I managed to hit my start line, they would bobble off line and thankfully they bobbled back on line and went in.

“Just trying to stay aggressive this weekend and hopefully putts keep going in.”

Two-time defending champion Rory McIlroy closed with back-to-back birdies to fire a bogey-free 67 and stand in a pack on 138, three off the pace. AFP, REUTERS