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Tiger Ties Own Course Record at Firestone, Forges Big Lead in Bridgestone Invitational
Tiger Woods has done it again at Firestone Country Club. The No. 1-ranked player in the world fired a 9-under 61 on the famed course in Akron, Ohio, to take command through 36 holes of the $8.75 million WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods, who began Friday two shots behind 18-hole leader Webb Simpson after opening with a 66, carded three birdies and an eagle on the par-5 second hole to make the turn in 5-under 30. He then birdied the first four holes on the back nine before cooling off with five pars for a 31 on the home half.
Through two rounds Woods stands at 13-under 127, seven shots ahead of defending champion Keegan Bradley and England's Chris Wood, who both carded 68s.
Woods, who's won at Firestone an astounding seven times, capped off his round with an unlikely par on the last after driving into the trees on the right. He hit his second shot to an area near the hospitality tents, thus getting free relief, before pitching onto the fringe 22 feet from the cup. From there, he rolled in the par putt to loud applause and preserve his 61, which matched the course record he set in 2000 when he won by a tournament-record 11 strokes.
"I played really good. I made a couple of key putts," he said at greenside. When asked whether he was thinking about a magic 59 after going 9-under through 13 holes, he said, "Yeah, I thought about it. I could have done it. I've been in positions where I've gone that low and it's not a feeling that I'm uncomfortable with."
Woods was especially pleased with his par on 18, which ensured a bogey-free round. "I think making big par putts are bigger than making birdies," he told PGATour.com "It keeps I don't know what it is, but it's that feeling of never dropping a shot. I didn't drop any shots today, and I kept the card clean. Those are nice feelings when you're able to do that, when you're able to keep a card clean like that with no bogeys."
The 61 also matched his all-time personal low, a number he's now shot four times. Three of those scores led to victories, while the other led to a runner-up finish in the 2005 Buick Open behind winner Vijay Singh.
Eight strokes behind Woods are Bill Haas (68) and Sweden's Henrik Stenson (70), while nine back are Jim Furyk, England's Luke Donald, Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson, who all shot 69s.
Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat also carded a 69 and is in solo 10th at 3-under 137. Sharing 11th at 138 are South Africa's Richard Sterne (68) and Americans John Merrick (66), Steve Stricker (67), Rickie Fowler (71) and Harris English (68). Merrick's 4-under effort was merely the second-lowest score posted on Friday.
Simpson recorded a 75 to drop into a tie for 16th at 1-under 139 with fellow American Zach Johnson (70) and Welshman Jamie Donaldson (69). Italy's Francesco Molinari (70), Argentina's Angel Cabrera (68), England's Paul Casey (70), Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (68), Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and American Ryan Moore (74) are in 19th at even-par 140.
Rory McIlroy had a 1-over 71 to slip into a tie for 25th at 141 with, among others, two 2013 major winners - Masters' champion Adam Scott (68) and U.S. Open winner Justin Rose (72).
British Open champion Phil Mickelson carded a 71 and is now at 3-over 143.
There is no 36-hole cut in the tournament.
For all the scores, visit http://www.worldgolfchampionships.com/bridgestone-invitational/leaderboard.html.