AKRON, Ohio: World number one Tiger Woods matched the low round of his career with a nine-under-par 61 on Friday to seize a seven-stroke lead after the second round of the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods, playing his final tuneup for next week’s last major tournament of the year at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, fired an eagle and seven birdies to finish 36 holes on 13-under 127.
“I’m very happy I was able to post that,” Woods said. “I just kept thinking, whatever lead I had, let’s just keep increasing it. It’s at seven now so that’s not too bad after two days.”
Woods matched the Firestone Country Club course record of 61 he posted in 2000, when he won by 11 strokes with a record-low 72-hole total of 21 under par, and flirted with breaking the PGA record-low of 59 before settling for par on each of the final five holes.
“Disappointed? Absolutely not,” Woods said. “A 61 is pretty good. I’m not bummed.”
England’s Chris Wood and American Keegan Bradley shared second on 134 after each fired a 68. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and American Bill Haas are fourth on 135.
Besides two at Firestone, Woods fired his other 61s at the 1999 Byron Nelson Championship and the 2005 Buick Open.
Woods, a four-time winner this year and a seven-time winner of events at Firestone, opened with birdie and then eagled the par-5 second with a 20-foot putt and birdied the third.
After a birdie at the par-3 seventh, Woods caught fire with a run of four gains in a row to open the back nine before parring his way to the clubhouse. Woods missed birdie putts of 10 feet at the 15th and seven feet at the 17th hole but only saved par at the 18th with a 25-foot putt after a woeful drive.
Sending a signal his game was in fine shape entering the year’s final major, the 14-time major champion needed only 22 putts. He reached 10 of 14 fairways and made 16 greens in regulation.
But it still doesn’t rank among the really great rounds in Woods’ memory.
“Top 10 rounds? I don’t know about that,” Woods said.
Woods said he could sense the crowd’s excitement as he played the final holes, murmurs of 59 in the air.
“They were excited,” Woods said. “You could hear it more than feel it. You definitely could hear it. They were into it.”
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama played alongside Woods and marveled at what the US legend accomplished.
“It was great looking at great play at the top of the world,” Matsuyama said.
Australian Stuart Appleby was the most recent player to shoot a 59 in a PGA event, doing so at in the final round of the 2010 Greenbrier Classic.
Americans Al Geiberger, Chip Beck, David Duval and Paul Goydos have also accomplished the feat.