(Reuters) - Canada's Graham DeLaet has his sights set on ending one of golf's oldest title droughts, and was in "a great position" as he finished the Canadian Open second round just two strokes off the early lead in Montreal on Friday.
No Canadian has won the country's national open since Pat Fletcher in 1954, but DeLaet at least will start the weekend within striking distance after reeling off nine birdies in a seven-under-par 63 on Royal Montreal's Blue Course.
The 32-year-old 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," DeLaet told PGATour.com after posting an eight-under 132 halfway total.
Veteran Americans Jim Furyk (63) and Tim Petrovic (66) led on 10-under with half the field back in the clubhouse, while DeLaet was alone in third place.
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. Only one of his compatriots, number 93 David Hearn, is also 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, a 16-times winner on the PGA Tour. "That was the difference between 67 yesterday and 63 today.
"I got the putter working early and knocked in a bunch of putts, stayed real patient and gave myself a lot of opportunities my second side."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)