Canadians Stay Atop Leaderboard After Second Round
RBC Canadian OpenGreg Bowman
The second round of the RBC Canadian Open had five Canadians within the top 20 to start the day after a stellar opening round from Canadian golfers. Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes, Adam Hadwin, David Hearn and Drew Nesbitt were all poised to make the cut, which took the top 70 players from the field, with 2-under being the cutoff.
Graeme McDowell came into the second round at 5-under shooting a 65 in his opening round. Starting on the 10th hole, he soared up the leaderboard through his first nine holes, getting back-to-back birdies on holes 14 and 15, then another on 17. He added another birdie on hole 3, which was then negated with a bogey on 4. McDowell hit another birdie and bogey to finish Friday at 8-under with a 3-under 67 in the second round.
“I played beautiful the first 12 holes. Had a four-under for the day…Front bunker on number four, my 13th hole, the par five, knifed the trap shot…Felt a little shooken up after that,” said McDowell, who finished the day tied for seventh place.
Canadian Mackenzie Hughes caught the attention of the tournament not only with his opening round play, but also his antics when he pulled out a Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors jersey for the duration of one hole. He continued his strong play in the second round, shooting an identical 4-under 66 to put him at 8-under through 36 holes.
“It was a lot different than yesterday. I didn’t feel as comfortable with everything. Everything felt just okay today… I missed more greens, I had to make a few more five-footers for par…to kind of bounce back after finishing on a sour note yesterday is a big boost of confidence,” said Hughes, a native of Dundas, Ontario, who hit two-thirds of his greens compared to nearly 90% in his opening round.
Swedish golfer, Henrik Stenson, made a solid run at the lead in his second round, building off his opening round 4-under 66 with an identical score in round 2 to put him at 8-under. Stenson hit four birdies and no bogeys to put him within striking distance, tied for seventh place.
“I feel like I left a few chances out there but on the other hand it’s been fairly tight,” said Stenson who has been a pro for 20 years.
The group with the most attention on them consisted of World no. 1, Brooks Koepka, past-champion Brandt Snedeker and Justin Thomas. Koepka was an even 70 after the opening round and improved upon that with a 4-under 66 in the second round. He had an impressive finish, birdying on five of his last seven holes.
“I thought it was the complete opposite [of yesterday]. I thought I putted great and hit it terrible… I didn’t really hit any fairways so you’re really not going to have any birdie chances… whatever I fixed yesterday was working. I liked how I feel on the greens, I feel very comfortable,” said Koepka, who recently won the PGA Championship.
Koepka was seen joking with one of his longtime friends, Justin Thomas, who was in a similar position after the first round with an even score. Thomas rebounded in the second round with a 5-under 65 thanks in large part to an eagle on hole 4. That was part of a string of holes from 1 to 5 where Thomas hit an eagle and two birdies, accounting for the bulk of his score.
“It was solid. It was all around better. I drove it pretty well, I hit my irons well, wedges well, chipped it well and I putted well… It’s tough out here because of how severe the greens are with the putting,” said Thomas, who is looking for his first win of 2019.
The leader after 36 holes was Brandt Snedeker, who got himself into a zone after his opening round of 1-under 69. The American torched his group and the rest of the field, putting up a tournament-best 60 with a 9-under.
The 2013 Canadian Open champion hit an eagle on the fourth hole, which resulted in two more birdies afterwards. “Today, I was feeling good. I felt really good yesterday with the way I played, I just didn’t make any putts… You get one of these days only once in a while, so I did the best I could to take advantage of it,” said Snedeker, who temporary led the field at 11-under through two rounds.
In the afternoon groups, they came out poised to improve upon the low scores that were accomplished by their morning counterparts. A handful of solid golfers were battling for a share of the lead, with its possession changing hands almost hourly.
Canadian Adam Hadwin had himself a very good round, shooting 4-under 66 to finish round two at 8-under, including two eagles: “A lot of fairways, a lot of greens, [I] had some good looks. A few putts didn’t go in today but two eagles in a round [doesn’t] happen very often…we’re still in the mix, that’s the main goal,” said the Abbotsford, BC native, who also shot two bogeys in the round.
The group who had eyes on them the entire afternoon consisted of Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson, who shot a combined 17-under in the second round.
McIlroy, who is playing in his first Canadian Open, improved upon his 3-under 67 in the opening round with a 4-under 66 in the second. It put him in a tie for 13th place in the field with a score of 7-under. “The middle 16 holes were really good, just the bogey on 1 and the bogey on 18 sort of started and finished disappointingly. But a lot better, I hit it really well. Putted good, made some nice ones,” said McIlroy, who is currently the World no. 4 golfer.
Webb Simpson finished in fifth place after round two, shooting a 6-under 66, two strokes better than his previous round. He, and the rest of his group found a rhythm on Friday, which is contagious: “When you see balls going on the fairway, putts made – you do feed off of it. It’s not fun when you’re not playing well and seeing everybody else making it look easy,” said Simpson on his group’s play.
Matt Kuchar came into the tournament leading the FedEx Cup standings. He had eight birdies and a bogey for a 7-under 63 in the second round, putting him at 12-under with a share of the lead. “We had a great group. Everybody had good form. It’s always interesting to see how Rory can attack a course; Webb and I kind of plot our ways around…It was a whole lot of birdies made,” said Kuchar, who is in contention for his third PGA Tour win of the season.
Sharing the lead with Kuchar after the second round was Scott Brown, who started the day at 5-under with an opening round 65. Brown dialed himself in with the afternoon tee time, getting an eagle which then led to birdies on five of the next seven holes. “Just kind of kept it going from yesterday. Good iron shots over the last couple days gave me a lot of good looks and I was able to capitalize on most of them,” said Brown, who came in as the 250th ranked golfer in the world.
Canadian Nick Taylor also had a strong second round, keeping pace by finishing tied for third at 11-under with a 5-under 65 performance. Ben Silverman, who is from Thornhill, Ontario, had a stellar round, shooting the second-best score of the day at 9-under 61 after an opening round 71. Corey Conners, Drew Nesbitt and Mike Weir were all just short of making the cut, all finishing at 1-under. In all, six Canadians made the cut and will continue playing on Saturday for the first of two championship rounds. The Canadian Open has not been won by a Canadian since Pat Fletcher in 1954.