AKRON, Ohio -- Sergio Garcia doesn't know anything about being in a zone, but he had no trouble identifying the best round of his career.
Garcia one-putted the final 11 holes and made birdies on his last seven holes Friday in the Bridgestone Invitational to tie the course record at Firestone with a 9-under 61 and take a three-shot lead into the weekend.
He had a birdie putt on every hole on the back nine, missing only a 15-footer from the fringe at No. 11. Garcia shot 27 on the back nine, a course record.
"Just one of those moments that you love and you enjoy, and you wish there were no end," he said.
It matched the tournament record held by Tiger Woods, who shot 61 in 2000 and 2013, and Jose Maria Olazabal, who shot his 61 in 1990. Woods went on to win by 11 shots in 2000 and seven shots last year. Olazabal won by 12 in the World Series of Golf.
Garcia still has work to do.
He was at 11-under 129, three shots clear of Justin Rose, who had a 67. British Open champion Rory McIlroy birdied his last two holes for a 64 and joined Marc Leishman of Australia (67) four shots out of the lead.
McIlroy played in the group behind Garcia and could hear what was going on if he couldn't see it.
"Every time I looked, he was putting a ball in the hole and the crowd was cheering," McIlroy said. "I knew that he was making a few birdies."
Garcia was five shots out of the lead when he had to scramble to save pars on back-to-back holes to close out the front nine on what seemed to be an ordinary round. Two good swings on the 10th hole led to a 20-foot birdie putt. He hit 8-iron to 2 feet on No. 12 and 3 feet on No. 13 for the easiest birdies he had all day, and those turned out to be the start of his big run.
The Spaniard finished in style, making birdie putts of 15, 25 and 20 feet on his last three holes.
Garcia's previous best score was a 62 on three other occasions -- as a 19-year-old at the Scottish Open and Byron Nelson Classic in 1999, and at Mount Juliet in 2002 at the American Express Championship.
Woods also shot his 61s at Firestone in the second round. He could have used something remotely close to that to stay in range of Garcia. Instead, Woods hit only four fairways off the tee and couldn't seem to make anything on the green. It added to a 71, leaving him 10 shots behind.
"I didn't hit the ball well. I didn't putt well. I didn't do anything well," Woods said. "The only thing I did well was I fought hard. Grinded hard. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very good day."
Starting times for the third round were moved up to this morning, with threesomes off both tees, because of a forecast for storms. That figures to only keep Firestone soft, allowing players to attack the pins provided they're in the short grass.
Watney increases lead
RENO, Nev. -- Nick Watney increased his lead to three points Friday in the Barracuda Championship, scoring eight points in the modified Stableford event at Montreux to push his two-day total to 26.
Players receive eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for double bogey or worse.
Watney had five birdies and two bogeys in the morning session after making nine birdies in his bogey-free first round.
Geoff Ogilvy was second. Wes Roach was third at 22, and Tommy Gainey and Tim Wilkinson had 21. Ogilvy had a seven-point round, Roach and Gainey each scored 10 points, and Wilkinson had five.
Watney is making his first appearance in the event since 2008 after failing to qualify for the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. He's 124th in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 125 getting into The Barclays -- the playoff opener that he won in 2012 for the last of his five PGA Tour titles.
Watney made two birdies and two pars on his opening nine and added birdies on Nos. 2, 3 and 8.
Ogilvy, the Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, earned five points with an eagle on the par-5 13th, gave back a point with a bogey on No. 14 and birdied No. 16. On Thursday, he had eight birdies in a bogey-free round.
Making his first appearance in the event since 2002, Ogilvy won the last of his seven PGA Tour titles in 2010. He has only two top-25 finishes this season and is 151st in the FedEx Cup standings.
Bryce Molder (Conway) was in a tie for sixth place with 20 points. He had five birdies in his second round. David Lingmerth (Arkansas Razorbacks) was tied for 17th with 16 points. He had five birdies and three bogeys.
Glen Day (Little Rock) had 7 points, Tag Ridings (Razorbacks) 4, Ken Duke (Arkadelphia, Henderson State) 2 and John Daly (Dardanelle, Razorbacks) minus 15.
Marco Dawson ahead
BLAINE, Minn. -- Tuesday qualifier Marco Dawson shot a 9-under 63 on Friday to take the lead in the Champions Tour's 3M Championship, leaving Bernhard Langer a stroke back five days after the German star's record-breaking victory in the Senior British Open.
Dawson, playing the back nine first at TPC Twin Cities, birdied three of his first four holes and chipped in for eagle on No. 18. After a birdie on the par-5 third hole, he birdied three of his final four holes.
Langer, the two-time 3M champion who won by a tour-record 13 strokes Sunday at Royal Porthcawl, was tied for second with Jeff Maggert, Rocco Mediate and Vijay Singh. Langer holed out from the fairway for an eagle on the par-4 14th and added birdies on Nos. 16 and 18.
Kenny Perry opened with a 65, and Paul Goydos had a 67 in his debut on the 50-and-older tour.
Sports on 08/02/2014
Print Headline: 9-under 61 leaves Garcia up by three