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The Canadian Press photo via AP / Wyndham Clark hits his tee shot on the 14th hole at St. George's Golf & Country Club during the second round of the Canadian Open on Friday in Toronto.

TORONTO — Wyndham Clark closed with an unlikely par save Friday to hold on to his one-stroke lead heading into the weekend at the RBC Canadian Open.

After bogeying the 15th and 16th holes in windy conditions at St. George's Golf & Country Club, Clark got up and down from close to 50 feet from a semi-plugged lie on the downslope in a greenside bunker on the par-4 18th. His par round of 70 followed an opening 63.

"Really had no chance," Clark said. "And I would love to say I was trying to do what I did, but I was trying to punt a little bit out to the right, and somehow when I came into the ball it, like, plopped up to the left and landed in the rough and trickled down to four feet. It was definitely the best save I've had of the year. It was pretty awesome."

The 28-year-old American, who started the week by making the field for next week's U.S. Open via 36-hole qualifying, is seeking his first PGA Tour victory.

Five players were a stroke back at 6-under 134, including four-time major champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland. The tournament's reigning champion as its 2019 winner — the PGA Tour event was canceled the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic — McIlroy shot a 68 on Friday.

"Challenging," he said. "I think the only thing this golf course needs for it to feel a little more major like is just a bit of length. I think that's the only thing that's missing. The rough is very penal, the greens are tricky, the wind's up, it's drying out a little bit because of the wind. All of a sudden, you've got a pretty testing golf course."

Also tied for second in golf's fourth-oldest championship were England's Matt Fitzpatrick (70) and a trio of Americans who all shot 67: Alex Smalley, Jim Knous and Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell, who duplicated his first-round score but not its feel.

After mixing six birdies and three bogeys Thursday, the Baylor School graduate had bogeys on two of his first four holes Friday but made a birdie on the par-5 ninth and gained four more strokes after the turn with back-to-back birdies on 11-12 and 16-17. However, like Clark, Mitchell considered his par to finish the day impressive.

"Definitely didn't start out like I wanted, but the holes were a lot tougher at the start. One through eight is definitely a difficult stretch. A lot of mid-to-long irons into par-3s and par-4s," Mitchell said. "Then after that you've got three par 5s, all reachable, and a couple wedges. So was able to take advantage of those holes coming in and make a really good par on 18, because that hole's really, really tough."

Fitzpatrick closed double bogey-birdie-bogey-bogey-bogey.

"Just a poor finish," Fitzpatrick said." Just didn't hole the putts I needed to on the last three. Just pathetic. Yeah, just pathetic finish really with the putter."

Clark birdied the par-14th to reach 9 under, then bogeyed the next two. On the par-5 15th, he drove into the right fairway bunker and saved bogey with a 10-footer. On the par-3 16th, he missed a 7 1/2-foot par try after hitting short and right into a bunker.

"Honestly, I played really well," Clark said. "It was tough out there. It was windy, there was some tough pin placements. You guys have seen, these greens are very tough and you get into some tough spots where you have to be defensive even from 10, 15 feet."

Austin Cook (64) was seventh at 5 under, and the eight-man logjam at 4 under included top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler (67).

Aaron Cockerill (68), who is making his PGA Tour debut, and Nick Taylor were the top Canadians, tied for 21st at 2 under in a group that included PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas (69).

"I'm in a decent position going into the weekend," Cockerill said. "Kind of where I want to be and see if we can throw a low one on the board tomorrow and see what happens."

The cut was at 1 over, and Chattanooga's Stephan Jaeger missed it as the former Baylor School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout followed his opening 71 with a 76.

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The Canadian Press photo by Frank Gunn via AP / Justin Rose casts a shadow as he tees off on the ninth hole at St. George's Golf & Country Club during the second round of the Canadian Open on Friday in Toronto.

DeChambeau to LIV

ST. ALBANS, England — Former major champion Bryson DeChambeau of the United States became the latest big name to sign on with LIV Golf, and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel remained on course to win the maximum prize of $4.75 million at the Saudi-funded series' inaugural event near London.

That kind of big money has already convinced a long line of leading players — although, so far, none from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking — to accept offers from the circuit bankrolled by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.

DeChambeau has yet to explain why he made an about-face to join that list, with the 2020 U.S. Open winner having previously said he would continue competing on the PGA Tour. That may not be possible now; the PGA Tour announced Thursday that players who defect to the renegade series will face banishment from future events.

DeChambeau will be joining a series that already features Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, who are also among the golfers to have spent the week facing questions about the decision to sign up given Saudi Arabia's human rights violations.

On the course, Schwartzel shot a 4-under 66 to take a three-shot lead over countryman Hennie Du Plessis in the fight for the $4 million individual first prize at the 54-hole event that concludes Saturday. Both players are on the Stinger team that is leading the way to share a $3 million purse for the best four-man team at Centurion Club.

DeChambeau's signing was announced as the second round was taking place.

"He is passionate about the sport, innovative in his approach and committed to pushing the boundaries in pursuit of excellence," LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said in a release. "He's not afraid to think outside the box and supports our mission of doing things differently to grow our game. The power and energy he brings to the course will deliver added electricity to our competition in Portland and beyond."

The 28th-ranked American could make his LIV Golf debut at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Oregon, which hosts a tournament starting June 30.

"I don't know how the field will look in Portland," two-time major winner Martin Kaymer of Germany said. "If you can play against more players who are up there in the world rankings ... it's also proof that this tour here and this tournament is going into the right direction.

"They are staying in their frame, they are doing what they promised to do with the game of golf, and within a few weeks, that event so far has been great, especially in the time frame."

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