Fleetwood and Pouter in share of halfway lead in Ohio
Ohio, August 3: Tommy Fleetwood fired seven birdies in a sparkling second-round 63 to share the lead alongside Ian Poulter and Justin Thomas at the halfway stage of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Race to Dubai champion Fleetwood began the day four strokes behind overnight leader and fellow Englishman Poulter after posting a four-under-par 66 at Firestone Country Club on Thursday.
The 27 year old produced his lowest-ever score at a World Golf Championships event on Friday with three birdies on his front nine and four more after the turn to join fellow early starters Poulter and World Number Three Thomas at the top of the leaderboard on 11 under par.
Poulter had led by three shots during his second round after making three birdies in his first 11 holes but he mixed two birdies with two bogeys in his next seven to follow up Thursday’s 62 with a 67. Thomas, meanwhile, finished with a flourish as he notched five birdies on his back nine on the way to a 64.
Later starters Kyle Stanley and Jason Day were their nearest challengers on nine under, with four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy and Si Woo Kim another stroke further back in a tie for sixth.
McIlroy was a happy man after closing his second round with back-to-back birdies to sit just three shots off the lead. The Northern Irishman, who won this event in 2014, reached the turn in 33 and after dropping a shot at the tenth he made amends at the final two holes, holing his bunker shot at the 17th before sending his approach at the last to within five feet of the cup to get to eight under par.
China’s Haotong Li, who celebrated his 23rd birthday with an eagle at the second, was in a tie for eighth on seven under alongside American Luke List.
Tommy Fleetwood said: “It was just a good day, one of those days where you keep going. You’ve just got to keep your mind. And as easy as it’s played for two days with no wind and it being soft, there’s no holes that are like gimme holes out there.
“No fives on the card is always something nice to look at. Got out of position a couple of times. When I did, I kind of got away with the tee shot on 14 and made a really good four. Overall I drove it well. My irons, I just tended to hit exactly where we were picking the spots and I holed a few putts. You’ve got days like that where it’s going well and you’ve just got to make the most of them.
“Well, it is the same essentially, it’s the golf course and it’s you. You’re just playing in the best field in the world really. It just makes it that extra little bit more difficult really to win. But essentially you’re hitting the shots. Good swings are never going to do you any harm, and if you hole a few putts, it’s all the same. No matter what golf course or what field you’re in, you always have to shoot a certain score, but these are the best players in the world so it just makes it that bit tougher.”
Ian Poulter said: “It’s a decent stretch. I’ve obviously in a good bit of form. I mean, I’ve only won once twice in a season so I’d like to do it again. That was all a very long time ago. I might have won twice, three times, I don’t know. It’s been a while, so I would like to do it again.
“I’m not trying any harder than I’ve been trying for 19 years, but I feel comfortable in my game, so whatever that is, what gives the impression that I’m looking very comfortable and calm, when you’re making birdies and you’re at the top of the leaderboard and you’re not making many mistakes, then everything’s kind of stress free.”
Justin Thomas said: “I played well overall. I putted a lot better today or I made more putts. I gave myself quite a few opportunities, but not as many as I did yesterday, but I was just able to capitalise on more of them today. I had one mistake there on 16, which is a bad mistake by both Jimmy and myself, the decision that we made, but we were able to get away with the bogey, so it’s all right.”
Rory McIlroy said: “It was eventful, an adventure to say the least. I was one under standing on the 17th tee and I think if I had to finish one under, it would have felt like the worst I could have shot today. So to get those two birdies on the last two holes is obviously very nice and get a couple closer to the lead. I just felt with some of the drives I hit on the back nine and where I was leaving it, I should have been giving myself chances for birdies and not having to scramble for par.
“We were looking at the leaderboard all afternoon. It seemed like the guys in the afternoon, no one made a big move. I think the wind got up a little bit and when the wind does pick up here, it does swirl in these trees and it makes club selection quite tricky. It puts just a little bit of doubt in your mind. So I think that’s why we didn’t see anyone go as low as this morning. The greens were getting a little chewed up just because they’re soft as well.”