China’s Carl Yuan watches his second shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the RBC Canadian Open. Credit Getty Images

China’s Carl Yuan is back having fun with his funky golf swing and exaggerated follow-through action as he seized a one-stroke second round lead at the RBC Canadian Open following a fine 5-under 67 on Friday.

The 26-year-old Yuan, who is seeking to become the first mainland Chinese golfer to win on PGA TOUR, traded seven birdies against a pair of bogeys at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto to earn his first ever lead in any round on TOUR with his 9-under 135 total.

Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, chasing a second career win, ensured a strong Asian presence on the leaderboard as he charged into tied second place on 136 with a 66 to join overnight co-leaders Aaron Rai of England and home hero Corey Corners, who both signed matching 69s. England’s Tyrell Hatton fired the day best of 64 for T2 as well, with defending champion Rory McIlroy carding a bogey free 67 to lie three back.

Yuan’s superb iron play saw him hit 15 greens in regulation as he produced four birdies from about four feet on Hole Nos. 7, 12, 16 and 18 at a difficult Oakdale course. He also rode on a hot putter by rolling in three birdies from within 13 feet on the first, second and 15th holes.

“Definitely played some great golf out there. I had the exact same mindset as yesterday. Just go out, play freely land let the result take care of itself,” said Yuan, who has struggled in his rookie season on TOUR with only five made cuts this season.

“My caddie and I, we did a great job communicating. He was cheering me on nicely. There’s some tight holes and he just asked me to swing freely. He said, don’t really worry about where we’re trying to hit this ball. Then we just go from there, which kept me loose and free for the round. Glad that I shoot a good score.”

A native from Dalian, Yuan earned his PGA TOUR card by finishing second on the Korn Ferry Tour last season following one win and eight top-10s, and drew plenty of attention with his unorthodox swing action, especially his exaggerated follow-through. The fun side of Yuan has been missing this year as he struggled to adapt on new golf courses each week.

“I’ve been playing like way too technical in the past events, which didn’t really get me the good results,” said Yuan. “So, I figure why not just play freely. And then glad it works out good so far.”

Yuan, who played college golf at the University of Washington, is unfazed by the pressure of holding the lead for the first time as he seeks to secure his first PGA TOUR title with a world-class field chasing him. His best finish to date was T19 at the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

“I think I’ve definitely been in a similar situation before on the Korn Ferry Tour. But being out here I think it’s the same mindset I had last two days. Just go out and have fun and it works out good so far. I think I’m going to keep that rolling,” he said.

Pan, whose lone victory was at 2019 RBC Heritage, fired an eagle on the par-5 18th, five birdies and conceded a double bogey on par-4 15th as he rediscovered his best form after coming back recently from a lengthy wrist injury. A return to Canada brings back good memories as he won twice on PGA TOUR Canada in his first year as a professional.  “I just hit a lot of good shots. I gave myself a lot of good opportunities on the greens. These greens are pretty small to hit it on. Also the driving. Hit a couple bad drives out there, but I was lucky enough to punch out, get out of there,” said Pan.

“The eagle on 18 was special. I hit it to five feet and drained that putt. That kind of kept the momentum going on the front nine, which was my back nine. Playing a little bit harder, but I was able to save a lot of good pars out there. So it was an, overall, it was a great day. I feel my game is solid, but you always need a good score for four days to prove yourself. So that was really a good stepping stone for me to feel comfortable out here again. As everybody knows, golf is hard and everyone on the TOUR is very good. So just trying to compete with them.”


Second-Round Notes – Friday, June 9, 2023

Weather: Mostly cloudy with showers in the morning. High of 70. Wind NW 5-10 mph.

Cut: 75 professionals at 1-under 143 from a field of 153 professionals and three amateurs.

Second-Round Leaderboard

1st Carl Yuan 68 67 135 (-9)
T2 Aaron Rai 67 69 136 (-8)
T2 Tyrrell Hatton 72 64 136 (-8)
T2 Corey Conners 67 69 136 (-8)
T2 C.T. Pan 70 66 136 (-8)

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