Hunter Mahan fired a flawless eight-under-par 64 on Friday to take a two-shot lead over John Merrick after two rounds of the US PGA Tour’s Canadian Open.
Mahan’s eight birdies were enough to seize the lead from early second-round pace-setter Merrick, who equaled the Glen Abbey course record with a 10-under 62 that included an eagle and eight birdies.
Mahan had a 13-under-par total of 131, with Merrick on 11-under 133. Former Masters champion Bubba Watson was alone in third place after a 67 for 135, and it was a further stroke back to Patrick Reed (68) and Australian Aaron Baddeley (68) on 136.
Mahan, who played in the final group on Sunday at the British Open and finished ninth in the year’s third major, birdied his last three holes to get past Merrick.
Mahan had got his round going with a similar burst of three birdies at the second third and fourth, and also birdied 11 and 13.
“I kind of built off last week,” Mahan said. “I got some good things I’m doing with my swing and everything, and feel good about that. I’m just going out there and really trying to trust my game. Just allow things to happen and not get in the way of myself and be as present as I can and keep my head up and keep moving forward and just kind of letting my abilities and everything that I’m doing in my game, let it try to come out.”
Merrick’s round matched the course record set by Leonard Thompson in 1981 and tied by Andy Bean in 1983 and Australian Greg Norman in 1986.
However, he acknowledged such a feat was not looking likely after a poor warm-up on Friday morning.
“I wasn’t hitting it that great on the range and I didn’t feel that good,” Merrick said. “Maybe that makes you focus a little bit more, try to figure out what’s going on, and I was able to kind of work a couple things out.”
Merrick, who earned his first US PGA Tour title with a playoff victory at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles in February, jump started his round with an eagle at the par-five second hole. He added back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth, and his six birdies on the back nine included another brace at 17 and 18.
“It was a great day,” said Merrick, who hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation. “I got off to a good start, hit it over the green on two and chipped in for eagle. “My game has been feeling pretty good lately. Everything kind of clicked today.”
Hopes of a first Canadian victory in 59 years in the country’s national open were looking dim after 36 holes. Mike Weir, who has been hampered by various injuries since winning the Masters in 2003, was the top Canadian after a five-under 67 that left him tied for 26th on 140.