Misfiring Woods and McIlroy stay in contention

AKRON (Ohio) • Tiger Woods teased his fans with a hot start to his second round at the Bridgestone Invitational on Friday but could not maintain the run on a slightly disappointing day at a venue he has all but owned.

Rory McIlroy also had his issues, misjudging several wedge shots. But, at day's end, both he and Woods were within striking distance at the World Golf Championships event in Akron, Ohio.

McIlroy's three-under 67 left him on 132 and three off the pace set by the trio of Tommy Fleetwood (63), Ian Poulter (67) and Justin Thomas (64). Woods' 68 meant he was five shots off the lead.

The 14-time Major champion hit only seven of 14 fairways in regulation and 13 of 18 greens and blamed his underwhelming round on struggling to adjust to the pace of the greens. "I'm really putting well," the 42-year-old American told Golf Channel. "Just didn't quite hit the putts hard enough today but, when I did, I made them."

He is an eight-time winner at Firestone Country Club but has not won anywhere since his 2013 victory on the course, which is hosting the event for a final time before it moves to Memphis next year.

He has been hampered by the back trouble that led to spinal fusion surgery in April last year.

He started his comeback this year ranked outside the top 500 in the world, moved to 50th - and secured his berth in this week's elite event - with his share of sixth place at the Open Championship.

McIlroy was also a contender at Carnoustie, charging even later than Woods but coming up two shots short of eventual winner Francesco Molinari.

The Northern Irishman was let down by a series of poor approach shots on Friday.

"I was getting frustrated on the back nine," he said. "I was putting it in position where I should have been giving myself birdie chances and I was having to hole five-and six-footers for par."

England's Fleetwood, a four-time winner on the European Tour, did not put a foot wrong and said his early tee time was a big advantage on Firestone's fast greens.

"I was just signing my card there and realised I hadn't had a five," the 27-year-old said. "I think I got away with one bad tee shot where it bounced out of the trees but, apart from that, played lovely, putted really nice and just picked them off."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 05, 2018, with the headline 'Misfiring Woods and McIlroy stay in contention'. Print Edition | Subscribe