AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - American veteran Jim Furyk birdied three of his final five holes in firm conditions to charge four strokes clear in the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Friday.
Though Furyk bogeyed his final hole after hitting his approach into a bunker, a second successive 66 gave him a commanding advantage over his closest challengers as he posted an eight-under 132 total at fiery Firestone.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry (66) and Americans Dustin Johnson (67) and Bubba Watson (66) were tied for second place on a high-quality leaderboard after they all had to negotiate slightly tougher conditions in the afternoon on a firming layout.
Furyk, a 17-times champion on the PGA Tour who has yet to win at Firestone despite several close calls over the years, benefited from some good work on the practice range as he racked up seven birdies and three bogeys to take over at the top.
“Obviously I’m happy with back-to-back 66s,” the 45-year-old American told reporters. “Yesterday I felt like I played a really good round. I got the ball in the hole. I scored.
“I had a few things I wanted to work on on my golf swing. I came out today, I felt a little better about it. I hit the ball more solid. Hit more fairways. Had more confidence.
“I’m going to try to do the same things this weekend and not really look at the leaderboard that much, try to shoot under par every day,” said Furyk, who reeled off three birdies in a four-hole stretch late in the round to take control.
Overnight leader Danny Lee of New Zealand followed his opening 65 with a 72 to fall five shots off the pace with Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell and Swede Henrik Stenson.
Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, the biggest drawcard this week in the absence of injured world number one Rory McIlroy and eight-times former champion Tiger Woods, was a further stroke back after a 68.
“I’m really happy with the finish,” Spieth said after hitting a pinpoint approach to three feet for birdie on his final hole.
Former U.S. Open champion McDowell, like Furyk a medium-length hitter at best, felt the conditions at sun-baked Firestone this week were an ideal fit for both players.
“The golf course is firm and fast and really tricky and better for guys like me and Jim Furyk, rather than the usual Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroys that play well around Firestone,” said McDowell. “It really requires a lot of grinding.”
Editing by Andrew Both