Matt Fitzpatrick one off lead at Canadian Open as compatriot Aaron Rai sets pace

Matt Fitzpatrick one off lead at Canadian Open as compatriot Aaron Rai sets pace

Matt Fitzpatrick was one shot off the clubhouse lead jointly held by fellow Englishman Aaron Rai midway through the first round of the Canadian Open.

A week before his US Open defence, Fitzpatrick began his bid for a third career PGA Tour title in steady fashion with a four-under-par 68 at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club.

The 28-year-old, having started on the back nine, rolled in five birdies before a bogey on his penultimate hole of the day – the 352 par-four eighth – left him one shot behind the early leaders, which included Rai.

Rai had looked in all sorts of trouble after dropping four shots in three successive holes from the third to slump to three over, but he turned things round in remarkable fashion.

After recording birdies on the seventh and eighth to reach the turn on one over, the 28-year-old from Wolverhampton then picked up further shots on the 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th – where he came close to making a hole in one – 16th and 18th to move to five under.

That left him in a four-way share of first place with American pair Chesson Hadley and Justin Lower, and home hope Corey Conners.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, whose build-up to the tournament saw him fielding questions about the shock merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, was one under after an eventful opening 71 that included five birdies and four bogeys.

The world number three is seeking a hat-trick of victories at the Canadian Open following triumphs in 2019 and 2022, with the tournament having been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid.