(Reuters) - Canada’s Graham DeLaet has his sights set on ending one of golf’s oldest title droughts, and was in “a great position” just two shots behind leaders Jim Furyk and Tim Petrovic after the Canadian Open second round in Montreal.
No Canadian has won the country’s national open since Pat Fletcher in 1954, and DeLaet will start the weekend within striking distance after reeling off nine birdies in a seven-under-par 63 on Royal Montreal’s Blue Course on Friday.
Not since Mike Weir led at the halfway mark 10 years ago has a Canadian been so well-placed after two rounds. Left-hander Weir went on to lose to Vijay Singh in a playoff.
The 32-year-old DeLaet is not planning his victory speech just yet but is confident that his broad shoulders can handle the weighty expectations of a partisan home gallery.
“I know there are a lot of hopes and expectations but I‘m in a great position after two rounds and happy and excited about the weekend,” he told PGATour.com after posting an eight-under 132 total.
“I would love to win this golf tournament. It would mean more to me than anything but I‘m only halfway there.”
Veterans Furyk (63) and Petrovic (66) led on 10-under 130, while DeLaet shared third place with American Kyle Stanley (67).
David Hearn (70) was the next best Canadian, seven strokes off the lead, which suggests DeLaet is the only player with a realistic chance of ending his country’s 60-year title drought at the event.
DeLaet has never won on the PGA Tour, but two runner-up finishes early this year suggest he is on the verge of a long-expected breakthrough.
The native of Weyburn in Saskatchewan has established himself as his country’s premier player with a world ranking of 38th. Hearn, ranked 93rd, is the only other Canadian ranked among the top 200.
“It was a great start,” said DeLaet, who brushed the sleep from his eyes after his 7.50am ET (1150 GMT) tee time to pick up five birdies in his first eight holes.
“I putted really well all day, even (sinking) a couple of big bogey putts to avoid the double, and to birdie the last two (holes) was just icing on the cake.”
DeLaet was part of an impressive threesome with Furyk and world number seven Matt Kuchar (65) which made a combined total of 22 birdies.
”I don’t know if I’ve ever played in a group (shooting) 63, 63, 65,“ said Furyk. ”It’s nice to see the other guys making birdies - as long as you are.
“Sometimes when your two partners are making a bunch of birdies and you’re not seeing putts go in it makes you more frustrated.”
Furyk made his move early with four consecutive birdies from his second hole (the par-four 11th), where he jump-started his day by sinking a 45-foot putt that broke “about three separate ways” before crashing into the center of the cup.
“I missed a couple of putts but you can’t make them all and I made a bunch more putts today,” said the 44-year-old. “That was the difference between 67 yesterday and 63 today.”
Furyk, who finished fourth at last week’s British Open, has piled up 16 PGA Tour victories, including the Canadian Open in 2006 and 2007, though neither of those wins came at Royal Montreal.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes