Conners leads Canadian contingent into the weekend
TORONTO – For the second consecutive day, Corey Conners played Corey Conners golf at the RBC Canadian Open.
Hit fairways. Hit greens. Try to make as many putts as possible.
It’s not necessarily the most exciting way to play golf, but it is effective and Conners is very, very good at it. Through two rounds, the native of Listowel, Ont., is sitting at eight under, in a tie for second, a shot off the lead held by PGA Tour rookie Carl Yuan.
“I have felt really good about my game,” stated Conners after signing for a 3-under 69. “Ball striking's been very, very solid. Hopefully can keep hitting it well and get some more putts to fall in over the weekend.”
Conners missed just three fairways and just two greens over his day. The accuracy has been primary reason for his good scores; the rough at Oakdale Golf and Country Club is gnarly and has been swallowing any ball that veers off course.
The other part of Conners’ game that has been shining is his play on the front nine. Over his two rounds, he’s three under on that side which has been exceptionally difficult compared to the back. That comes despite the front playing more than two shots more difficult than the back. In most cases, players have been trying to hold on through the front and go low on the back. Conners has been an exception.
His performance comes three weeks after he held the lead after 36 holes at the PGA Championship at another oak-inspired course, Oak Hill in nearby Rochester, N.Y. Conners ended up sliding to a Sunday 75 and finished tied for 12th. While that stung in the moments after he concluded the round, he was able to learn from that and weave the good parts into this week’s play.
“I would say this week I've been a lot more relaxed than even I was there,” he stated, “and I felt like I was quite relaxed at the PGA Championship. So I'm feeling good about my game and able to play with freedom and confidence. So just having a lot of fun.”
Of course no Canadian man has won the national championship since Pat Fletcher accomplished the task back in 1954. And that win came 40 years after the previous Canadian victory, Karl Keffer, in 1914.
That means it’s been one winner in 109 years.
There’s still a long way to go, of course and a few other players who would like to extend the Canadian winless streak. Tyrrell Hatton is tied with Conners. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are three off the lead.
McIlroy, who is looking for his third consecutive RBC Canadian Open title, has come to know Conners in Florida where the two play and practice at the same club. He doesn’t see the possibility of winning getting too big for him.
“I don't think if he gets into contention this weekend, I don't think the moment's really going to get to him all that much,” he stated. “He's obviously playing well. He had a great chance at Oak Hill. He's been a really good player on Tour now for the last, sort of, three years.”
Conners isn’t the only Maple Leaf on the leaderboard either. Eight Canadians made the cut, the most since 2002. Adam Hadwin and Roger Sloan are at 5 under, while Wil Bateman put a new putter in the bag five minutes before teeing off and used it to post a round of 66.
Veteran Mike Weir will also play on the weekend for the first time since 2014. In his 30th start at the Open, the 53-year-old posted a 70, and sits at 2 under.