Thursday 21 November 2019

McIlroy hits form with stunning 67

William S Callahan

TIGER WOODS crumpled once again under the weight of expectation yesterday, but Rory McIlroy looked ready to play like the crown prince of golf at Firestone.

McIlroy landed six birdies in an uninhibited second-round 67 at the Bridgestone Invitational, a three-under-par effort matched by his fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell.

Still, a couple of slips and a cold putter sent McIlroy into the weekend eight off Jim Furyk's clubhouse lead after the 42-year-old American followed up Thursday's 63 with a polished 66.

Favouring power ahead of precision, McIlroy didn't hit many fairways but still found 16 greens in regulation, and even after a double-bogey six at his 10th hole, the first, he rebounded brilliantly, holing a 15-foot birdie putt at the next.

McDowell dipped below par for only the third time in 22 rounds at Firestone as he eased back into the form which earned him top-five finishes at the recent US and British Opens.

Despite an early three-putt bogey, the Portrush man found his touch as his second round progressed. A 10-foot par-saver at his final hole ranked with the five putts he made for birdie as he joined McIlroy on three-under in the clubhouse.

Woods has won seven times at Firestone and, after three victories on the PGA Tour in 2012, was expected to press for his 17th WGC success this weekend and first since the 2009 Bridgestone.

Yet for the second day he failed miserably to find the pace of greens he used cherish. Woods even three-putted from inside five feet at seven on his way to a dismal 72 which left him wallowing on two-over.

Padraig Harrington certainly got in synch with the new format at the Reno-Tahoe Open as he moved within eight points of the 22 collected by early clubhouse leaders John Mallinger and JJ Henry during their first 36 holes.

Harrington had six birdies and five bogeys in a lively round which yielded seven points under the modified stableford system, two for each birdie and minus-one per bogey.

Bridgestone Invitational,

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