AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Sergio Garcia didn’t think there was anything special about his golf at the Bridgestone Invitational, at least for nine holes.
He missed a few fairways and a few good birdie chances. He got careless with his swing and had to scramble for par. He was five shots out of the lead in the Bridgestone Invitational, not the worst place to be though wanting to be a little better.
The next two hours changed everything.
“A dream back nine,” Garcia said. “I just started hitting good shots, rolling the putts in, and everything seemed to happen. I was just enjoying it as much as I could.”
Garcia one-putted his last 11 holes. He made birdie on his last seven holes.
When it was over – as much as Garcia hated to see it end – the Spaniard had the best round of his career. He shot a 9-under 61, tying the course record shared by Tiger Woods (twice) and Jose Maria Olazabal, and it gave Garcia a three-shot lead going into the weekend.
“Just one of those moments that you love and you enjoy, and you wish there were no end,” he said.
Woods shot a 61 in the second round last year, and in the second round of 2000. Olazabal had his 61 in 1990, when this was called the World Series of Golf.
Garcia joined some elite company. The trick now is to be in a class by himself Sunday when the World Golf Championship ends.
Here are five things to look for going into the weekend:
HISTORY OF 61: Garcia was pleased to be listed in the same sentence as Woods and Olazabal with his 61. He’d rather be listed next to them on the list of winners.
Olazabal opened with a 61 in 1990 and went on to a 12-shot victory. Woods shot his 61 in the second round in 2000 and wound up winning by 11 shots. And then last year, Woods shot 61 on Friday and cruised to a seven-shot victory.
There’s one difference from recent history. Woods had a seven-shot lead after two rounds in both those wins. Garcia is only up by three shots over Rose (67). Perhaps even more worrisome is that British Open champion Rory McIlroy (64) and Marc Leishman (67) were another shot behind.
GOOD FRIDAY: McIlroy put to rest at the British Open that “Black Friday” cloud that had been hanging over him for so much of the season. Six times in eight tournaments, McIlroy had a nine-hole score of 40 or higher on Friday that took him out of the mix. But at Royal Liverpool, he shot a 66 to seize a four-shot lead and went to a wire-to-wire win. He figured the questions would.
For good measure, McIlroy birdied the last two holes for a 64 on Friday and was only four shots behind, not much of a deficit with 36 holes to play.
And he still got asked about it.
“It’s nice to put it to bed and shoot a couple of good second-round scores,” he said. “I’m in a great position going into the weekend, which I’m really happy about.”
MOMENTUM: McIlroy is coming off his third major title at the British Open. Garcia was a runner-up at Hoylake, as was Rickie Fowler. Marc Leishman finished fifth. Charl Schwartzel tied for seventh.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but they were among the top six on the leaderboard going into the weekend.
The exception was Justin Rose. All he did was win his two tournaments before the British Open, at Congressional and Royal Aberdeen.
TIGER TRAILS: Tiger Woods didn’t have much go right in the second round. He missed fairways (10 of them) and a lot of putts. The result was a 71, making this the third time this year that he shot in the 60s in the opening round and didn’t break par in the next round.
“I didn’t hit the ball well. I didn’t putt well. I didn’t do anything well,” Woods said.
He still held out hope when he finished. Only seven behind, he figured that could be made up easily on the weekend. But that was before Garcia posted his 61, and Woods thus was 10 shots out of the lead.
Someone relayed Woods’ comments to Garcia, that he thought making up a seven-shot deficit was doable.
“He’s 10 back,” Garcia replied.
WEATHER: Firestone already was drenched with rain over the weekend, making the South course soft. More storms are in the forecast for Saturday, so the tournament decided to move up the tee times for the third round and play in threesomes off both tees.