Sloan, Piller lead after 36 holes at News Sentinel Open

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ( -- Canada's Roger Sloan fired a 64 on Friday afternoon at the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot to post 10-under 132. Sloan is joined at the top by Martin Piller (67) who bogeyed his final hole of the day in the morning wave.

A trio of players posted nine-under 133. Camilo Benedetti, Hunter Haas and Fabian Gomez all carded 66 on Friday at Fox Den Country Club.

Just two back with 36 holes to go are Ryan Spears (68), Peter Lonard (66) and Bill Lunde (67).

Sloan was in the groove Friday afternoon. The PGA Tour Canada alumnus two-putted his first hole of the day, the par-5 10th, for birdie after he reached the green in two. Sloan gave the shot back on No. 12 but bounced back with three consecutive birdies. The University of Texas-El Paso graduate added four more birdies including a birdie on No. 9 where he hit a soft pitching wedge from 125 yards to two feet.

"I hit a lot of good shots and converted a lot of opportunities out there," he said. "You have to stay focused on the process that it takes to be successful."

It has been a month since Sloan captured his first Tour title at the Nova Scotia Open. The 27-year-old pro isn't worried about the pressure that comes with playing in the final group; instead Sloan has chosen to embrace the tension and anxiety that comes with being in contention on the weekend.

"Obviously the goal is to win," he said. "That's what we practice for, we want to be in that situation."

Piller got his round off to a great start when he eagled No. 11 from 130 yards with a pitching wedge. The Dallas, Texas resident never saw the shot go in the hole but knew something was up when he reached the green.

"That was cool because I felt like I should have birdied No. 10," he said. "It definitely settled me down, after that I was ready to go."

Piller proceeded to add three more birdies during the round and was 11-under heading into No. 9, his last hole of the day. The former Texas A&M Aggie missed the green with his approach and failed to get up and down for par. The bogey dropped Piller back to 10-under.

The Tour veteran enters this weekend with a chance to earn his first victory since 2010.  It may have been a few years since his last victory but Piller still has a desire to get back to the winner's circle.

"I want to win," he said. "I'm going to need to keep doing what I'm doing and maybe play even better."

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