AKRON, Ohio – Playing among the final groups Friday afternoon, Sergio Garcia rode a hot putter to the top of the leaderboard at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Here’s how things look after two rounds at Firestone, where Garcia leads by three shots:
Leaderboard: Sergio Garcia (-11), Justin Rose (-8), Marc Leishman (-7), Rory McIlroy (-7), Rickie Fowler (-6), Charl Schwartzel (-6), Patrick Reed (-5), Keegan Bradley (-5)
What it means: Rose held the top spot for much of the day, but Garcia rattled off seven straight back-nine birdies to pull ahead, as he looks to win his first WGC title. A number of top names remain within striking distance, though, including McIlroy, who carded a 6-under 64 in his second round since winning the Open Championship.
Round of the day: Garcia made just one birdie on the front nine, then went lights out on the inward half. He birdied No. 10 and then made seven in a row on Nos. 12-18, ending with 11 straight one-putts and a back-nine 27 that broke the Firestone record. His 9-under 61 also tied the overall course record, most recently shot by Tiger Woods in the second round last year.
Best of the rest: McIlroy got off to a fast start with birdies on his first three holes, then cooled during the middle stretch of his round before ending with a flurry. The Ulsterman birdied three of his final five holes, including Nos. 17 and 18, to shoot the second-best score of the week and remain within four shots of Garcia heading into the weekend.
Biggest disappointment: Ryan Moore was within a shot of the lead heading into Friday but stumbled to a 3-over 73 in the second round and plummeted down the leaderboard. Moore managed only two birdies against five bogeys. At 2 under, he now heads into the third round nine shots off the pace.
Main storyline heading into Saturday: With tee times moved up to avoid possible inclement weather, all eyes will be on Garcia, as he looks for his first PGA Tour win since the 2012 Wyndham Championship. After making everything in sight across his final nine holes, it remains to be seen how he can respond with several big names – including multiple major champions – still within reach.
Shot of the day: Starting on the back, Henrik Stenson got his round off to an ideal start by holing a wedge from 108 yards on the 10th. The eagle propelled Stenson to a 4-under 66 that moved him to 3 under for the week.
Quote of the day: “It was definitely a dream back nine.” – Garcia