Sensational Sergio shoots 61
A stunning round of 61 gave Sergio Garcia a three-shot lead over Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Rose at the halfway stage of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Friday.
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After going to the turn in 34 and picking up a shot on the 10th, Garcia birdied his last seven holes to complete an amazing back nine of 27 at Firestone Country Club.
The lowest score of the Spaniard's career equalled the course record set by Tiger Woods in 2000 and matched in the second round last year by the former world number one, who went on to win the event for the eighth time.
Garcia has yet to win a World Golf Championship event but is now in pole position to do so and put another near-miss in a major championship behind him in the perfect fashion.
The 34-year-old pushed Rory McIlroy all the way before finishing second to the Northern Irishman in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool a fortnight ago, his 19th top-10 finish in 64 majors.
"I've been fortunate to have some good rounds but I think that was my lowest round in tournament play and also my lowest nine holes so it was very nice," Garcia said.
"I did get a little bit lucky on the front nine, I hit bad tee shots on four, eight and nine and got good breaks and was able to save par and that kept my round going.
"And then I started hitting the ball really well on the back nine, I hit two very close on 12 and 13 and kept giving myself chances and rolled it very nicely so I'm thrilled with it."
Garcia's remarkable round overshadowed a 64 from McIlroy which left him four off the lead, the three-time major winner delighted to have kept the Spaniard in his sights.
"Sergio played in front of me and I saw he kept making birdie after birdie and I thought I have to make some birdies coming in here or I'm going to be way behind going into the weekend," McIlroy said. "So it was nice to birdie the last couple and stay within touching distance of him."
Rose had held the clubhouse lead for much of the day to remain on course for his third win in four events and a second WGC title, adding a 67 to his opening 65.
The former US Open champion, who won back-to-back events for the first time in his career before finishing 23rd in the Open Championship last month, carded four birdies and just one bogey to finish eight under par, one ahead of McIlroy and first-round leader Marc Leishman.
Rose, who was second behind Woods in this event in 2007, said: "It was a stark contrast to my round yesterday when I scrambled it around and made everything. Today I hit it much closer to the hole, gave myself plenty of looks and didn't quite make as many.
"I began to putt a bit better on the back nine, hit my lines. Early in the round I wasn't seeing the breaks very well but all in all a thoroughly good today.
"I think it was a nice step forward with the way I felt with my long game. You need everything around here so if I can keep relying on some part of my game this week that will be good."
Woods is 10 off the pace after struggling to a 71 that left him on one under par for the tournament.
The 38-year-old is playing just his third event since back surgery in March but needs to finish the equivalent of third in Akron and third in next week's US PGA Championship at Valhalla to make the FedEx Cup play-offs and give himself four extra tournaments to boost his case for one of US captain Tom Watson's three Ryder Cup wild cards.
"I didn't hit the ball well. I didn't putt well. I didn't do anything well," Woods said after a round containing three birdies and four bogeys. "The only thing I did well was I fought hard, grinded hard. Unfortunately, it wasn't very good today."