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Emory tames Eagle Creek, leads by two

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DUNROBIN, Ontario—On a wet, rainy day at Eagle Creek Golf Club, Bryce Emory played bogey-free golf, shooting a 6-under 65 to move to the top of the Commissionaires Ottawa Open leaderboard, two shots clear of Devon Bling and three ahead of Thomas Longbella and Derek Oland.

Before Emory, a 33-year-old veteran and No. 31 on the Fortinet Cup standings, went to bed Thursday night, he looked at the weather forecast and expected the worst when he woke up. While the wind blew and the rain fell, it wasn’t, as he said, “as bad as I thought it might have been.”

In the steady drizzle, Emory got his second round off to a much better start than how he opened the tournament. Thursday, he bogeyed his first hole. In the second round, he felt a pivotal moment came on his second hole of the day, No. 11, when he had to make a six-footer for par. “That kept the momentum going right out of the gate,” he explained.

His putter heated up as the day progressed. His first birdie of the day came at No. 13, then he reeled off three in a row, at No. 18 and then on 1 and 2 after making the turn. He added three more—on Nos. 5, 7 and 9—to finish the round. Emory’s 65 matches his low round of the season. He also shot 65 (although that was a 5-under score) last Sunday in the closing round of the Quebec Open powered by Videotron Business. That led to a tie for ninth, Emory’s career-best finish in what was only his seventh career start.

“There is a lot of work to be done. You have to make birdies out here on this Tour. I have to stay aggressive, give myself some (birdie) looks and hopefully have some putts drop. We’ll see where it goes,” Emory added, thinking ahead to the weekend.  

Key to Emory’s success is his work off the tee. Of his 24 non-par-3 tee shots through two rounds, he’s only missed one fairway. “I’ve done a really good job there. I’ve been sticking to a nice, little, low fade off the tee on some of those tighter holes. Hitting the fairways are so important. From there you can be aggressive.”

Bling followed his 65 with a 66 to take over second place. He was happy to compare the two days of golf in dramatically different weather conditions. “I definitely think it was more challenging today. There was more (ball) spin today, so the (yardage) numbers you had into the greens—the iron shots—you could fly a little closer to the flag,” said Bling. “With the rain going on and off all day, I think it was pretty difficult to judge the number when it was coming into the wind or (with a) cross-wind.”

Following a bogey at No. 12, his first of the day following a 3-under start, Bling hit his approach shot on the par-4 13th to the top of a ridge. He faced a 25-foot, downhill putt that he canned for the bounce-back birdie, the first of three in a row. He bogeyed No. 16 then finished par-birdie to sit right behind Emory.

“It’s a huge confidence boost,” Bling said when asked about playing in such different conditions and still making a bunch of birdies. “It means every aspect of my game feels great. I can trust it, I can aim, I can trust the wind, trust the number and believe that I’m going to make a good golf swing and hit the ball straight.