TORONTO — Back-to-back birdies to close out the third round put C.T. Pan two strokes up on the field at the RBC Canadian Open, but that lead is far from safe with a pack of big names — and two Canadians — in the hunt.
Pan, from Taiwan, shot a 6-under 66 to sit at 14-under overall on Saturday at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in the northwest corner of Toronto. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy was in a six-way tie for second as he looks for a third consecutive title at the men's national golf championship.
"You still have to play aggressive, because this course is a lot of rough, but if you hit it in the fairway you will have a lot of short irons in and you're going to create a lot of birdie opportunities," said Pan, adding that he won't change too much as he tries to fend off the group tied for second that includes McIlroy, Americans Mark Hubbard, Harry Higgs and Andrew Novak, as well as England's Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose.
"I wouldn't be surprised if someone shoots 8-, 9-under, because the PGA Tour guys are really good."
Nick Taylor, from Abbotsford, B.C., did just that earlier Saturday, firing a 9-under 63 to set a new course record at Oakdale Golf and Country Club. That round rocketed Taylor up the leaderboard to sit in a tie with England's Aaron Rai at 11-under, good for eighth.
Taylor surpassed the record of 8-under that England's Tyrrell Hatton matched in Friday's second round. Oakdale actually has 27 holes on its property and is using a composite course for the PGA Tour event.
Canadian Golf Hall of Famer George Knudson, who won on the PGA Tour eight times in the 1960s and '70s, was a regular at Oakdale and has nine of the holes at the 98-year-old course named after him.
"To have a course record is really cool," said Taylor. "I don't think I have one out here on Tour.
"To do it at the RBC Canadian Open is even more special and to be mentioned in the same breath as George Knudson is phenomenal."
Corey Conners (70) of Listowel, Ont., rounded out the top 10 at 10-under overall. He and Taylor agreed that they'd be happy with either one of them winning the Canadian Open and end a nearly 70-year drought for Canadians at the event.
"I think we're rooting for each other, but we still want to win," said Taylor, who regularly practises with Conners ahead of PGA Tour events. "If we don't win, I think we want another Canadian to win.
"If I look up and I'm second and Corey Conners is first then that's almost as good as winning."
Pat Fletcher won at Vancouver's Point Grey Golf and Country Club in 1954. Although there have been some close calls in the past 20 years, this year's edition of the tournament holds a great deal of promise as eight Canadians, the most since 2002, made the cut.
"It's been far too long," said Conners. "I'm going to be letting it fly, giving it my all tomorrow and I'm sure (Taylor's) going to be doing the same thing.
"I've got some ground to make up, but you never know. We have a chance."
McIlroy won in 2019 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club and again last year at St. George's Golf and Country Club. The event was cancelled in the intervening years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It feels eerily similar to the last two tournaments," said McIlroy. "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 a really interesting day."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press