- By PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Seven straight birdies, 11 consecutive one-putts. That’s how Sergio Garcia capped his career-best round, a 61 Friday at Firestone Country Club.
It tied the course record, and his 27 on the back nine was a low mark for the venue and one shy of tying the PGA TOUR’s record for lowest nine in history. The only player to go lower was Corey Pavin, who had a 26 on the front nine at Brown Deer Park GC (par 34) in the first round of the 2006 U.S. Bank Championship.
It also gave Garcia a three-shot lead over Justin Rose. He is four clear of Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman through the first 36 holes of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
But through his first nine holes, there was no indication Garcia would do anything special -- he made just one birdie.
Then he rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on 10, stuck his approach shots on the 12th and 13th close and away he went with birdies on those two holes and every one after that, including on 17 and 18, where he rolled in two more putts from outside 20 feet.
Sergio Garcia blazes back nine en route to a 61 at Bridgestone
“I could see what I wanted to do pretty much almost every shot” Garcia said. “And there I could see the lines in the putts quite well.
“You make them once in a while, but you don't make them that often. The one on 17, it felt so smooth when I hit it, I could see 2 or 3 feet short of the hole. I could see it going in. And then the one on 18, more of the same. I felt very comfortable.”
The only hole Garcia didn’t birdie on the back nine?
The par-4 11th, where he hit his approach onto the back fringe and missed the 17-footer coming back.
FRIDAY'S BEST SOCIAL MEDIA
Sergio Garcia's scorecard from the back nine today. Reports from Firestone CC suggest that he played pretty well. pic.twitter.com/KQ0fQYgAAB— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 1, 2014
WGC-Bridgestone leaderboard: 1. Garcia -11 2. Rose -8 T3. Leishman -7 T3. MIlroy -7 Scores: http://t.co/ixlJSevCqM— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 1, 2014
EARLY START SATURDAY: With bad weather expected for the third round, Saturday's tee times at Firestone Country Club have been moved up.
Players will tee off between 7 and 9 a.m. ET with groups going off both tees in threesomes.
The weather forecast is calling for a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms beginning at 10 a.m. and increasing through the day.
CALL OF THE DAY: Doug Bell of PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls Sergio Garcia's seventh consecutive birdie to close out a 61 on Friday at Firestone Country Club.
Third-round coverage of the WGC-Bridgestone invitational will stream live Saturday starting at 9 a.m. ET.
RORY UNDER THE RADAR: Lost in the chaos of Garcia’s 61 was the day’s second-best score -- a 64 from Rory McIlroy.
It moved him 11 spots up the leaderboard and into a tie for third, four strokes back of Garcia.
Unlike Garcia, though, McIlroy, who won The Open Championship in his last start, got going early, making birdie on each of his first three holes.
His only bogey of the day came at the par-4 sixth, and he ended the day with three birdies over his final five holes.
“If the driver's on for me like it is, then I feel like there's some low numbers,” said McIlroy, who hit 10 of 14 fairways and left himself plenty of wedges and short irons into soft Firestone greens.
He also putted well, taking 26 putts and making six of them from outside 10 feet.
With bad weather and presumably soggy conditions Saturday, don’t expect his strategy to change. Said McIlroy: “I'm taking driver off every hole that I can and set myself up with short irons into greens and taking advantage of those.”
TIGER STRUGGLES: A year ago, Tiger Woods scorched Firestone Country Club with a 61 in the second round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, which he eventually won by seven shots.
Friday, he hit just four fairways and took 29 putts on his way to a 1-over 71 that included four bogeys and three birdies and leaves him 10 strokes off the lead.
He made just two putts over 5 feet, saying he struggled with the speed of the greens and his lines.
“It wasn't just the driver,” Woods added. “It was just everything.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click below to see our favorite images from the second round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“I didn't hit the ball well. I didn't putt well. I didn't do anything well.” -- Tiger Woods following a 1-over 71 that included him hitting just four fairways and taking 29 putts.
“It's really interfering with my sleep.” -- Charl Schwartzel, joking about the early start to Saturday’s third round because of bad weather.
“It's just fun to kind of have a little bit of everything clicking. It will be nice once it starts to really go. I'll be able to kind of step on the gas and get after it a little bit more.” -- Rickie Fowler, who tied for second in his last two majors and is in contention to win his first WGC title.
ODDS AND ENDS
This is the ninth time in his career that Garcia has held or shared a 36-hole lead on TOUR. How many times has he gone on to win? Once, at the 2001 Buick Classic. ..
Leishman has 12 birdies through two rounds, which is tied for the most this week with Garcia and Patrick Reed. Keegan Bradley has the most birdies (23) in single event at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational during his victory in 2012. ...
Through two rounds, the par-4, 442-yard third hole is playing as the toughest with a scoring average of 4.224. In only one other year has the toughest hole in this event played this easy -- in 2011, the ninth hole played to a 4.211 average. ...
Category Leader(s) Statistic Driving accuracy Jim Furyk 14 of 14 fairways (100 percent) Greens in regulation Francesco Molinari 17 of 18 greens (94.44 percent) Fewest putts Sergio Garcia 23 putts Scrambling Keegan Bradley, Jim Furyk, Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Gary Woodland 100 percent Total birdies Garcia 9 birdies Bogey-free rounds Keegan Bradley (67), Jim Furyk (68), Garcia (61), Molinari (70) Low Round Garcia 61 Hole stats Hardest hole Par-4 14th 4.158 strokes Easiest hole Par-5 Second 4.632 strokes