Carl Yuan of China has won twice as a pro, but not yet on the PGA Tour, and he knows how much fun it is to be in the lead.
The 26-year-old Yuan played early in the day and had to deal with wind and rain, but posted a five-under-par 67 to lead Tyrrell Hatton of England, C.T. Pan of Taiwan, Corey Conners of Canada and Aaron Rai of England by one stroke midway through the 112th RBC Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
“I think (the weather) this morning was right up my alley,” said Yuan, who won the 2022 Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Korn Ferry Tour. “I went to school in Seattle at the University of Washington. “That’s exactly what we deal with in the wintertime, so I think the weather today suited me just fine.
“It was fun and that’s always my goal coming into the week. That’s my No. 1 goal. It’s 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.
“This is definitely a challenging track. I’m happy with how I’m playing and I played really freely today, which I haven’t been doing over the last couple of tournaments. I’m glad mentally that I kind of had a turnaround. I tried to just have as much fun as possible out here. I think that’s just who I am. And it suits my game. I had a great time and happened to shoot a good score.”
Yuan, who also captured the 2018 Qingdao Championship on the PGA Tour China, birdied the first two holes and three of the last four in his 67 to record a 36-hole score of nine-under-par 135, and nobody in the afternoon wave could catch him.
Hatton made five of his nine birdies in a row through the turn to card the low score of the day at 64, while Pan sank a five-foot eagle putt at No. 18 and added six birdies in a 66, Conners had four birdies and one bogey in his 69, and Rai did the same in another 69.
“I feel like this week you have to be fairly aggressive off the tee,” said Hatton, who captured the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational among his 10 pro victories. “There are some shorter par-4s where I think you still need to hit the driver off the tee to try to take advantage of them. Even if you hit the ball into the rough, you’re still closer to the hole. So, I think I just need to keep taking the driver out.
“These greens can be tough, but I made a lot of putts today and it was great to see the ball going in the hole. I’m going to stay aggressive this weekend, off the tee and on the greens, to see where it takes me. I’ve been playing better this season than I have the last couple years and it sure would be nice to win again.”
Harry Higgs birdied four of the first seven holes en route to a bogey-free 66 and is two shots behind in a tie for sixth with Andrew Novak, who birdied the first two holes on his way to a 68; Brendon Todd, who birdied two of the last four holes in a 69; Jonathan Byrd, who collected five birdies on the front nine in another 69; Justin Lower, who had three birdies on each nine in a 70, and Chesson Hadley, who birdied two of the last three holes in another 70.
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the two-time defending champion in the RBC Canadian Open, made four birdies on the back nine in a bogey-free 67, while eighth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England made bogeys on three of the first five holes on the way to a 73 and is tied for 37th.
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