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Canadians part of jammed leaderboard at RBC Canadian Open

Nick Taylor Nick Taylor - The Canadian Press

TORONTO – In a city known for its traffic, it’s fitting that the leaderboard for the RBC Canadian Open is more crowded than a highway at rush hour.

C.T. Pan leads by two shots but six more players including Justin Rose and defending champion Rory McIlroy are tied for second two shots back. Nineteen other players are tangled five shots behind them. Among the chasers are three Canadians hoping to put an end to the drought of Canadian men winning the home-country championship.

Nick Taylor leads the way, sitting three off the lead. He posted the best round of the week on Saturday with a smooth 63. The Abbotsford, B.C., resident has flown up the leaderboard since opening the tournament with a 75 and sitting in 120th spot. A 67 on Friday followed by the course-record on Saturday came after a little encouragement from his wife, Andie.

“My wife gave me a talking to Thursday night,” Taylor said with a smile. “I was just kind of getting in my own way. I probably had a very poor attitude when I was hitting shots that maybe weren't ending up like I wanted to. So I knew my game was there, but a little kick in the butt didn't hurt.”

Taylor’s round was close to error-free. Although the statistics report shows five fairways missed, most of those were either in the first cut or with accessible lies in the deeper rough. That allowed him to hit 14 of 18 greens. A perfect scrambling mark meant when he did miss, he recovered.

Now he finds himself with a chance to win in an arena that will no doubt be super-charged. This will mark the second such time this year. Taylor played in the final group at the WM Open in February alongside Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm at the rowdiest atmosphere in golf.

“The crowd will be on my side maybe,” he said of the fans at Oakdale Golf and Country Club who would be a close second to the WM in boisterousness. ”So that will be a nice difference. I'm going to try to win a golf tournament and adding the extra pressure if you want to call it of being a Canadian and winning the RBC Canadian Open would be on top of that. But I think I'm ready for the moment so we'll see.”

A shot back of Taylor is Corey Conners, who cooled off slightly from his first two days. Three birdies against a single bogey left him with a round of 70. He was solid off the tee and into the greens once again but wasn’t able to find the bottom of the cup on the back side as frequently as the first two days.

“I left some shots out there probably on the second nine today,” he admitted. “But it's nice to be in contention. I start every week trying to get yourself into the mix with an outside chance on Sunday. That's where I find myself. Definitely going to need some pretty special golf tomorrow, but feeling good about my game and it's going to be fun.”

Adam Hadwin sits a seven-under par after a round that seemed pedestrian at the start but got hot at the finish. He birdied three of his last four holes to post a 70.

Taylor said that while all the Canadians will be playing to win, they will also be cheering for their compatriots if they can’t get the job done.

“I think we're rooting for each other, but we still we want to win,” Taylor said. “If we don't win, I think we want another Canadian to win. That's kind of how we feel at any event, honestly, as well as here.”

The Canadian contingent will be up against a leaderboard that includes major champions Rose and McIlroy, who both posted rounds of six-under 66.

McIlroy went through the first nine in three-under and then rolled in three consecutive birdie putts from 11 to 13. But, after that, his putter went cold and he settled for a string of pars coming in.

On Sunday, he’ll look to become the first player to win the RBC Canadian Open three times consecutively. When he gets to the tee on Sunday, he said he may carry a sense of déjà vu.

“It feels eerily similar to the last two tournaments,” he said. “I was tied for the lead with Webb [Simpson] at Hamilton in 2019. Then last year with Tony [Finau] and [Justin Thomas]. Looks like there could be a lot of guys up around the lead tomorrow. So it's going to be really interesting day.”

With the clogged leaderboard, Rose indicated Sunday’s plan will be to press down on the gas pedal and try to keep making birdies.

“I think it's not even worth thinking about, necessarily, your position,” stated the Englishman. “It's about, what are you going to do to go and have a great Sunday. Because a great Sunday is -- one of the 10 guys that's in touch is going to have a great Sunday.”