Open champion Rory McIlroy closes in as Sergio Garcia matches course record

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

A stunning round of 61 gave Sergio Garcia a three-shot over Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Rose at the halfway stage of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Friday.

After going to the turn in 34 and picking up a shot on the 10th, Garcia birdied his last seven holes to complete an amazing back nine of 27 at Firestone Country Club.

The lowest score of the Spaniard’s career equalled the course record set by Tiger Woods in 2000 and matched in the second round last year by the former world number one, who went on to win the event for the eighth time.

Garcia has yet to win a World Golf Championship event but is now in pole position to do so and put another near-miss in a major championship behind him in the perfect fashion.

The 34-year-old pushed Rory McIlroy all the way before finishing second to the Northern Irishman in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool a fortnight ago, his 19th top-10 finish in 64 majors.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some good rounds but I think that was my lowest round in tournament play and also my lowest nine holes so it was very nice,” Garcia said.

“I did get a little bit lucky on the front nine, I hit bad tee shots on four, eight and nine and got good breaks and was able to save par and that kept my round going.

“And then I started hitting the ball really well on the back nine, I hit two very close on 12 and 13 and kept giving myself chances and rolled it very nicely so I’m thrilled with it.”

McIlroy sits just two shots behind Garcia on seven under following a superb round of 64 – following up Thursday’s opening round of 69.

The Open champion is tied for third, while Portrush star Graeme McDowell lies one over following a level-par round on Friday.