Tommy Fleetwood fired seven birdies in a sparkling second-round 63 to share the lead alongside Ian Poulter and Justin Thomas at the halfway stage of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Race to Dubai champion Fleetwood began the day four strokes behind overnight leader and fellow Englishman Poulter after posting a four-under-par 66 at Firestone Country Club on Thursday.
The 27 year old produced his lowest-ever score at a World Golf Championships event on Friday with three birdies on his front nine and four more after the turn to join fellow early starters Poulter and World Number Three Thomas at the top of the leaderboard on 11 under par.
“It was just a good day, one of those days where you keep going,” said the Race to Dubai champion. “You’ve just got to keep your mind. And as easy as it’s played for two days with no wind and it being soft, there’s no holes that are like gimme holes out there.”
Poulter had led by three shots during his second round after making three birdies in his first 11 holes but he mixed two birdies with two bogeys in his next seven to follow up Thursday’s 62 with a 67. Thomas, meanwhile, finished with a flourish as he notched five birdies on his back nine on the way to a 64.
Later starters Kyle Stanley and Jason Day were their nearest challengers on nine under, with four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy and Si Woo Kim another stroke further back in a tie for sixth.
McIlroy was a happy man after closing his second round with back-to-back birdies to sit just three shots off the lead. The Northern Irishman, who won this event in 2014, reached the turn in 33 and after dropping a shot at the tenth he made amends at the final two holes, holing his bunker shot at the 17th before sending his approach at the last to within five feet of the cup to get to eight under par.
“It was eventful, an adventure to say the least,” said McIlroy. “I was one under standing on the 17th tee and I think if I had to finish one under, it would have felt like the worst I could have shot today. So to get those two birdies on the last two holes is obviously very nice and get a couple closer to the lead. I just felt with some of the drives I hit on the back nine and where I was leaving it, I should have been giving myself chances for birdies and not having to scramble for par.”
China’s Haotong Li, who celebrated his 23rd birthday with an eagle at the second, was in a tie for eighth on seven under alongside American Luke List.