PGA TOUR RBC Canadian Open

Fox, MacIntyre second-round leaders at RBC Canadian Open; Hughes low Canadian

Mackenzie Hughes
Mackenzie Hughes (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

It’s falling on the shoulders of Mackenzie Hughes and seven other Canadians to keep the RBC Canadian Open title north of the border.

Reigning champion Nick Taylor missed the cut on Friday, leaving Hughes as Canada’s best chance to chase down co-leaders Ryan Fox of New Zealand and Robert MacIntyre of Scotland. Hughes said it was important to not let the pressure of winning force him to try too hard on Saturday and Sunday.

“I need to be even more aware of that come the weekend, because as you get closer to the end and as you see the finish line, it gets harder and harder to control those thoughts and to stay in the present,” said Hughes, who grew up in Dundas, Ont., less than 10 kilometres from Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

“I’ll have a big focus on just going out there and having some fun and enjoying the whole moment.”

MacIntyre had a 4-under 66 morning to move to the top of the leaderboard but then Fox fired a 6-under 64 in the afternoon to tie the Scot at 10-under overall and share a two-shot lead over Joel Dahmen (65) of the United States.

Taylor, from Abbotsford, B.C., struggled through a 1-over 71 round to miss the even-par cut by three shots. He ended a 69-year drought for Canadians at their national men’s golf championship last year after a thrilling four-hole playoff victory over England’s Tommy Fleetwood at Toronto’s Oakdale Golf and Country Club.

Although Hughes had five birdies and two eagles on Friday, he had three bogeys including two back-to-back to close out his round for a 6-under 64 day.

“I’ve had a few minutes to process the round and the whole day, and while the finish was disappointing, I look at the whole body of work,” said Hughes, who moved 28 spots up the leaderboard to sit in a tie for fourth at 7 under. “Starting today if you told me I was going to shoot 64, I would have taken it.

“So it gets me into contention for the weekend and that’s all I can ask for.”

Fox said he was able to reel in MacIntyre, who at one point had a three-stroke lead, because “almost everything” was clicking for him on Friday.

“I drove it great, I hit may irons really good, and had a few more putts drop today,” said Fox. “It could have been really silly, but I still had a lot of good putts.

“If you would have given me 64 to start the day I certainly would have taken it.”

MacIntyre did not have a bogey through 36 holes, with his father Dougie serving as his caddie for the first time on the PGA Tour.

“We’re just kind of learning on the run — well, he is, he’s learning on the run and I’m kind of trying to stay as calm as I can,” said MacIntyre. “When I do miss a shot, I’m not trying to get too annoyed.

“We’re just trying to have as much fun as we can.”

Hughes was tied with first-round leader David Skinns (71) of England and American Andrew Novak (67).

A modern-era record 28 Canadians were in the field at the home open, with eight making the cut. Corey Conners (67) of Listowel, Ont., and Edmonton’s Wil Bateman (66) were tied for 13th at 4 under, the closest to Hughes.

“A little bit of a sloppy finish, but game plan’s not really going to change over the weekend,” said Conners. “Just try and get the ball in the fairway.

“I’m hitting my irons well, so if I’m in the fairway I feel like I’ll be able to get a lot of birdie looks, and rolling the putter pretty nicely.”

Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace will be performing on the grounds at Hamilton Golf and Country Club after the second round is complete.