|David Hearn of Canada watches his tee shot on the 17th tee during the first round at the Canadian Open golf tournament at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster Ontario, July 26, 2012. (REUTERS)
ANCASTER, ONT. - On Thursday morning there were 23 Canadians in the hunt for their national golf championship.
With the field reduced to 79 players for Saturday's third round, only five remain.
David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., leads the charge after shooting his second consecutive round of 68 to sit at 136, seven shots off the lead at four-under-par. Amateur Albin Choi and Kingston's Matt McQuillan are a shot back at 137, just one shot clear of Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask.
Matt Hill of Bright's Grove, Ont., made the cut on the number at 139, one-under par.
Simply by making the cut, Toronto's Choi earned the distinction as low amateur winner in the tournament. He will be the only amateur to play the weekend.
Professionals Victor Ciesielski, Adam Hadwin, David Markle and Cory Renfrew all missed by one shot, shooting level par 140.
After a rookie PGA Tour season in which he had a third-place finish at the John Deere Classic and won more than $500,000, McQuillan has made just one cut in nine tournaments, collecting less than $11,000 in 2012. He's hoping that playing in front of family, friends and fellow Canadians will turn his luck.
"It has been a struggle for me this year," he said. "But I've been looking forward to this event all year, and it's really nice to bring a little game to the event. Hopefully I can continue to do that over the weekend."
Instead of trying to avoid the pressure of playing on the weekend in this most important of Canadian tournaments, McQuillan plans to embrace the emotion.
"Yeah, I kind of treated every tournament like a normal event this year, and it hasn't worked that well," he said. "The home soil has helped me along, and the crowd has been great to me the last two days. I hope I can make them proud on the weekend."
Among the other Canadian casualties were Stephen Ames, Jon Mills, Nick Taylor, Hamilton GCC member Chris Ross, Mike Weir and Canadian Amateur champion MacKenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont.