Thursday 24 January 2019

Tiger Woods gives his verdict as he moves into contention alongside Rory McIlroy at WGC Bridgestone

Tiger Woods. Photo: AP
Tiger Woods. Photo: AP

Tiger Woods believes his putting game is getting back to its best after he moved into contention at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational heading into the final two rounds.

Ian Poulter continued to set the pace on day two at Firestone Country Club, but fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood was leading a high-class chasing pack in Akron.

Poulter carded an opening 62 on Thursday and carried on where he left off on Friday with birdies on the third, eighth and 11th as he seeks a third World Golf Championship title.

However, a first dropped shot of the week on the 12th allowed Fleetwood to close within a single shot thanks to five birdies in his first 11 holes, with China's Li Haotong joining Fleetwood on nine under with two holes to play.

World number three Justin Thomas, who will defend his US PGA title next week, was a shot further back alongside Spain's Jon Rahm and South Korea's Kim Si-woo.

Yet it was the form of Woods and Rory Mcilroy that caught the eye as the two former world No.1's impressed as they carded solid second round scores.

"I'm really putting well," declared Woods. "When I hit the putts hard enough, they went in and that is good to see.

"I feel like I'm right there now, but this course is there for the taking. There are 40 plus guys under par and that is never the case here at Firestone. Saturday needs to be one of those days where I post a low score and see what happens."

McIlroy finished his round of 67 to back up his 65 on Thursday with this perfect approach to the 18th that set up a closing birdie.

Yet it was Poulter who led the way, as he pledged to take a "super aggressive" approach into the final two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after claiming a share of the halfway lead.

Overnight leader Poulter added a second round of 67 to his opening 62 at Firestone Country Club for a halfway total of 11 under par, which was matched by fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and world number three Justin Thomas.

American Kyle Stanley and former world number one Jason Day are two shots off the lead on nine under, with Rory McIlroy another stroke back after holing a bunker shot on the 17th and also making a birdie on the last in his 67.

"I'm playing well, I feel aggressive," Poulter told reporters in a post-round interview broadcast by the PGA Tour. "I feel like the greens, the way they are, you can be super aggressive and that's what I need to do.

"I need to keep reminding myself that if I play aggressive it brings out some of the good golf in me and I need to continue that."

Poulter is currently outside the automatic qualifying places for next month's Ryder Cup but insists simply being in Thomas Bjorn's side in Paris is all that matters.

"Frankly I don't care," the 42-year-old added. "As long as I'm putting the shirt on at the end of September I don't mind whether I make it on merit or whether Thomas picks me.

"I would like to do enough to make it by my own good play. I've got a few tournaments left to put some more points on the board and I can just do what I can do and see what happens."

McIlroy, who won Bridgestone Invitational title in 2014, told Sky Sports: "If I had shot one under today I think it would have felt the worst I could have shot with where I was putting some of my tee shots.

"I should have been giving myself looks for birdies on that back nine and I was having to hole five and six footers for par so it was nice to finish like that. I was getting frustrated out there but that finish makes up for it."

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