PGA Tour rookie Carl Yuan of China sits atop the leaderboard after two rounds of the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto.
Yuan shot a 5-under 67 on Friday at Oakdale Golf Country Club to move to 9-under 135, which was enough for a one-stroke lead by the end of the day.
On his tail are the likes ofCorey Conners, trying to be the first Canadian to win the country's national open since 1954, and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, who fired an 8-under 64. They're tied with Aaron Rai of England and C.T. Pan of Taiwan at 8 under.
Yuan, 26, has won events on the PGA Tour China and the Korn Ferry Tour but had struggled to begin his PGA Tour career. He had made just five of 16 cuts this season entering the week, and his best finish was a tie for 21st.
That could change this weekend after Yuan's 68-67 start in Toronto. He started his Friday by making a 14-foot birdie putt and went on to roll in six more birdies, including three of his final four holes.
"I've been like playing like way too technical in the past events on tour this year," Yuan said. "Which didn't really get me the good results. So I figure, why not just play freely? Yeah, and then glad it works out good so far."
Conners has said he views the Canadian Open like a major. After four birdies and just one bogey Friday for a 69, he'll enter the weekend primed to make a run at a trophy he badly wants.
Conners is the highest-ranked Canadian player in the world at No. 29. He won the Valero Texas Open last April -- both of his PGA Tour victories came there -- and he spent most of Friday and Saturday at the PGA Championship atop the leaderboard before a poor finish.
"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," Conners said. "So I'm feeling good about my game and able to play with freedom and confidence. So just having a lot of fun."
Hatton's round was anchored by a run of five straight birdies at Nos. 7-11. His approach game carried him through that stretch: His approach at the par-4 eighth landed 3 1/2 feet from the cup, his second shot at the par-4 10th left him 6 1/2 feet and his tee shot at the par-3 11th gave him a 7-footer for the fifth and final birdie of the spree.
He finished the day with nine birdies and a lone bogey while carding the low round of the tournament.
"It's a nice place to be after 36 holes, but there's still another 36 to go," Hatton said. "I imagine if the weather's kind of the same as it was this afternoon, scoring's going to be fairly low. It's tricky out there at times. You can easily get yourself in the wrong position. But, yeah, you still need to make a lot of birdies this weekend. I'm going to try my best to do that."
Rai, one of four co-leaders after the first round, shot a 69, while Pan fired a 66. Pan recovered from an early double bogey by eagling the par-5 18th after he stuck his second shot inside 5 feet.
Tied for sixth at 7 under were Harry Higgs (66), Andrew Novak (68), Brendon Todd (69), Jonathan Byrd (69), Justin Lower (70) and Chesson Hadley (70).
Two-time defending champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland improved on an opening 71 with a bogey-free round of 67 to get to 6 under. He's tied for 12th with England's Justin Rose (69), Nate Lashley (68), Mark Hubbard (70) and S.H. Kim of South Korea (70).
"Three back going into the weekend, that's -- I'm pretty pleased with that," McIlroy said. "Finished strongly out there this afternoon. Yeah, I feel pretty good with where I'm at. Would have been nice to be one or two closer to the lead, but I thought today went well."
Adam Hadwin (68) and Roger Sloan (70) are the next-lowest Canadians after Conners, both at 5 under.
--Field Level Media