By Steve Keating
OAKVILLE, Ontario (Reuters) - American John Merrick set the early pace with a course-record-equaling 10-under 62 but compatriot Hunter Mahan fired a 64 to grab a two-shot lead after the second round of the Canadian Open on Friday.
In ideal early scoring conditions, Merrick had an eagle at the second and eight birdies over his final 12 holes to complete a career-low, error-free round that tied the Glen Abbey Golf Club course record set by Leonard Thompson in 1981 and matched by Greg Norman in 1986.
"Everything kind of clicked today," said Merrick, a winner at February's Northern Trust Open. "I think I played a couple rounds in the past few weeks where I didn't make a birdie and that doesn't happen a lot.
"Maybe that all kind of came back together. Everything came in a rush."
As impressive as Merrick's display was, it was not enough to fend off Mahan, who capped his round in sizzling fashion with three straight birdies to knock his American compatriot from top of the leaderboard with a two-day total of 13-under 131.
"I saw kind of going into nine he (Merrick) was at 11 ... 62 is a pretty good round," said Mahan. "But I didn't really think I had to catch him. There's so much golf to be played here.
"I just wanted to go out there and not try to shoot for a score but just try to play golf.
"I think I was able to birdie the last three because I just kind of kept my head up and kept going."
Big-hitting Bubba Watson, the hugely popular former Masters champion, muscled his way up the leaderboard with five-under 67 to sit alone in third, just four off the pace and well-placed to take a run at his first title since Augusta last year.
Australian Aaron Baddeley returned a 68 for the second straight day to move into a tie for fourth with PGA Tour rookie Patrick Reed (68) on eight-under 136.
Canada's Mike Weir had the local fans cheering as he mounted a second-day charge by moving up the leaderboard with five-under 67 to sit nine back.
The 2003 Masters champion, who is battling back from a string of injuries, had the Glen Abbey crowd buzzing as his name popped up on the leaderboard in a tie for third with 14 holes completed.
Weir wobbled down the home stretch with bogey's on three of his final four holes but at four-under 140 is the top Canadian easily surviving the one-under cut.
Eighteen Canadians teed off on Friday bidding to become the first home grown winner of the national championship since Pat Fletcher in 1954 but only Weir, Brad Fritsch, Roger Sloan and David Hearn, with the help of three birdies on his final three holes, will play the weekend.
British former world number one Luke Donald, who missed the cut at last week's British Open, will also sit out the weekend in Canada returning a 71 to miss the cut by a stroke.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)