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There is a big question mark at the top of the leaderboard at the 2022 RBC Canadian Open and his name is Wyndham Clark. The 28-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona, resident commands a slim margin heading into the weekend at St. George's Golf & Country Club. The overnight leader after an opening round of 7-under 63, Clark held pat on Friday to the tune of even-par 70 and maintained his one stroke lead over the field. Missing two of his last three cuts, his presence in the pole position may be unexpected by most, but not necessarily all.

"It pains me to say this to his face, but I genuinely believe that he's one of the most talented golfers that I've ever been around," said his good buddy Drew Stoltz who caddies for him annually at the Charles Schwab Challenge. "Once it kind of settles in and it clicks for him, I think the sky is the limit."

Through 36 holes, it has clicked for Clark as he has been lights out both on and around the greens. While Clark's closest pursuer, Matt Fitzpatrick, has not changed, the Englishman has been joined at 6 under by four newcomers including defending champion Rory McIlroy. Four-time PGA Tour winner Sam Burns and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler are among those in the traffic jam at 4 under and if Clark is to slip up, there are a number of worthy candidates qualified to take to fill his role as leader before Sunday comes around.

The leader

1. Wyndham Clark (-7): Clark has never been considered a consistent golfer, but he does have the tendency to pop up every now and again on these more difficult golf courses. He has often played some of his best golf at Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Invitational as well as PGA National in the Honda Classic. Looking to continue this trend, if Clark is to stay in the mix over the weekend, his iron play will need to improve. Getting by with a heavy dose of short game acumen, Clark connected on only eight greens in regulation in Friday's round.

"A couple times my body shut down and I hit a couple left shots," Clark said of his second-round performance. "I felt really good. I didn't feel terrible with my ball striking. I just, it was a little tougher, the wind was sporadic and if you missed some fairways it's hard to hit the greens. I have a great short game and I'm a good putter so if I miss greens I don't freak out too much. Going forward on the weekend I would like to hit some more greens. So I'm not too concerned. I think I'm going to hit it great tomorrow."

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Other contenders

T2. Matt Fitzpatrick, Rory McIlroy, Alex Smalley, Keith Mitchell and Jim Knous (-6)

7. Austin Cook (-5)

T8. Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler, Shane Lowry and five others (-4)

A march to the top of the leaderboard may not be needed, rather just maintenance of one's position on the leaderboard as the course continues to firm up. If the difficult conditions persist, it is hard to look at anyone other than Scheffler as his major championship pedigree has been next level over the last two years. That being said, this tournament is still wide open with names such as Fitzpatrick, McIlroy, Burns and Lowry still within arm's reach.

"I think the only thing this golf course needs for it to feel a little more major like is just a bit of length," McIlroy said after his round of 2-under 68. "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."

Is a Burns vs. Scheffler rematch already upon us?

Last seen in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the good friends Burns and Scheffler are at it again. Both sitting at 4 under, the world No. 1 and the world No. 9 are well-positioned to contend at the RBC Canadian Open. They have quickly become the two winningest golfers this season as Scheffler possesses four victories while Burns has three. Over the weekend, they will both have a great opportunity to add to their individual totals.

"We're probably best friends," Burns said after his playoff defeat of Scheffler at Colonial. "But at the same time I can assure you, he wanted to beat me more than anybody else and I wanted to beat him more than anybody else, and it just happened to be the two of us at the end. Yeah, it's going to be a fun story that we'll get to have for the rest of our careers, and fortunately I got the better end of it this time, but hopefully we're at the beginning of these situations in the future."

Cameron Smith wins the most improved award

The world No. 4 was a surprise passenger on the struggle bus on Thursday as he signed for an opening round of 6-over 76. Bleeding nearly four strokes to the field with the putter, Smith was able to right yesterday's wrongs and play himself into the weekend at St George's Golf & Country Club.

Carding a 5-under 65, the Australian was responsible for the round of the morning and now stands at 1 over through 36 holes. Punctuated by a hole-out eagle from the middle of the fairway on the par-4 fifth, Smith has regathered himself ahead of next week's U.S. Open. If he continues to play in such a manner, the 28-year-old will arrive at The Country Club with his game in tact and having contended at the year's first two major championships.

Updated odds and picks

Here is a look at the updated odds through 36 holes via Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Rory McIlroy: 33/10
  • Matt Fitzpatrick: 9/2
  • Scottie Scheffler: 7-1
  • Keith Mitchell: 9-1
  • Shane Lowry: 11-1
  • Sam Burns: 12-1
  • Wyndham Clark: 16-1
  • Alex Smalley: 16-1
  • Justin Thomas: 20-1
  • Tony Finau: 22-1
  • Harold Varner: 35-1

Despite being a sucker for first-time winners, I am unconvinced of Clark's staying power at the top of this field as his iron play has been lackluster in the first two rounds. If this continues, it is easy to envision his name drifting down the leaderboard as the weekend progresses. With the hypothetical lead at 6 under and a pre-tournament Fitzpatrick ticket in our back pocket, Thomas at 20-1 is a fair play. A proven winner and a player one can trust on the back nine on Sunday, Thomas has yet to really get it going on the greens and in spite of this remains right in the thick of this tournament.