Lucky Clark maintains Canadian Open lead

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Wyndham Clark closed with an unlikely par save to take a one-stroke lead over defending champion Rory McIlroy and four others into the weekend in the Canadian Open.

After bogeying Nos.15 and 16 in windy conditions at St George's, Clark got up-and-down from about 50 feet from a semi-plugged lie on the downslope in a greenside bunker on the par-4 18th. He was seven under after an even-par 70.

"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."

McIlroy (68) was tied with Matt Fitzpatrick (70), Alex Smalley (67), Keith Mitchell (67) and Jim Knous (67).

The former world No.1 had to wait three years to defend his 2019 title because of the COVID-19 pandemic that cancelled golf's fourth-oldest championship the last two years.

"Challenging," McIlroy 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."

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 nine under, then bogeyed the next two. On the par-5 15, 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."

Clark opened with a 63 on Thursday after rallying Monday in a 36-hole US Open qualifier to get into the field next week at The Country Club outside Boston.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was at four under after a 67.

Australia's Cameron Percy jumped 28 places to be tied 33rd with his one-under total, following his second-round 68.

After a poor opening round, world No.3 Cameron Smith shot the second lowest round of the day (65) - 7th-placed Austin Cook shot 64 - to make the cut on the line ahead of next week's US Open.

Joining Percy and Smith at the weekend is Brett Drewitt (71, 70), who also squeezed in.

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