GAINESVILLE, United States: Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa birdied the last three holes to grab a one-stroke lead on Friday (Saturday in Manila) at the PGA Quicken Loans National while long-struggling Tiger Woods roared into contention.
Ishikawa had four birdies and four bogeys in the first 13 holes but closed with authority to post a three-under par 68 and stand on 11-under 131, one stroke ahead of Americans Rickie Fowler and Kevin Chappell and two atop Sweden’s David Lingmerth.
“I’m looking forward to the next two days,” said Ishikawa, seeking his first US PGA win in his 116th start. “I’m not sure what the victory number will be. My goal this weekend is 15-, 16-under.”
Tournament host Woods, a 14-time major champion on a two-year win drought due to injuries and swing changes, fired a 66 to stand in a pack of nine players sharing fifth on 134.
“I’m in a good spot,” Woods said. “I’m looking forward to the weekend. I’m looking forward to getting after it.”
Ishikawa, who made his first US hole-in-one in shooting a 63 on Thursday, nearly added another at the par-3 16th, his 9-iron from 15 yards landing two inches from the cup.
“It was a great moment,” Ishikawa said.
The 23-year-old world number 203 added a 13-foot birdie putt at 17 and dropped a 31-foot birdie putt at 18 to grab the lead alone after two rounds for the first time in a PGA event.
“Surprise putt but that was a nice finish,” Ishikawa said. “It wasn’t a great round through 15 holes but it was a great three shots.”
Woods, who has slid to 266th in world rankings, sank a 36-foot birdie putt at the par-5 eighth, his penultimate hole.
“That was a bit lucky but I’ll take it,” Woods said. “I putted pretty aggressively. I felt very comfortable hitting the putts.”
Woods has 79 career PGA titles, three shy of Sam Snead’s all-time record, but has not won a title since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone invitational and has not won a major since the 2008 US Open.
Woods flubbed his tee shot at the par-5 14th hole, a sad 161-yard effort that led to a bogey but prodded him to six birdies from there.
“Actually it got me going a little bit,” Woods said. “Got me kick started a little bit. Got me a little fired up. Got me a little more focused.”
Fowler, coming off wins at the Players Championship in May and the Scottish Open three weeks ago, welcomes Woods being in contention.
“It’s great to see him back on the front page of the leaderboard,” Fowler said. “Sounds like he hs started to feel better about his game and felt good out there. Hopefully he can get out there and get it going and we’ll have some fun over the weekend.”
Fowler also birdied the last three holes in a round of 65, giving him seven birdies on the day.
“When the putter gets going, (confidence) is about as high as it can be,” Fowler said. “Put myself in a great position.”
Lingmerth, who also shot 65, won his first PGA title in June, defeating England’s Justin Rose in a playoff to capture the Memorial.
“That win definitely boosted my confidence,” Lingmerth said. “Now I feel like I play a bit more relaxed and there’s no pressure from anywhere. Don’t think I’ve done anything special, just staying in the game.”
The group on 134 includes Woods, fellow Americans Pat Perez, Charles Howell, Brice Garnett, Jason Bohn and Jimmy Walker plus New Zealand’s David Lee, England’s Greg Owen and South Korean Kim Whee. AFP