AKRON, Ohio -- Sergio Garcia was in the trees left of the 18th fairway, looking through a gap in the branches to find a way out. Ahead of him was Rory McIlroy, giving his 35-foot birdie putt a little body English before it fell for birdie.
Garcia never lost command of the Bridgestone Invitational on Saturday, even after a storm delay of just over three hours. He started with a three-shot lead, stretched it to six shots at one point and closed with three good pars for a 3-under 67, three shots ahead of McIlroy.
The Spaniard just lost a small measure of comfort.
McIlroy, coming off a wire-to-wire victory in the British Open, might be the last player anyone wants to see right behind.
"I've got to keep doing the same thing, make sure that I have good confidence in myself, that I play nicely, and then see what happens," Garcia said. "If Rory comes out, or whoever is behind us comes out, and gets crazy like I did on Friday, then it is what it is. But hopefully, I'll be able to play well again and be all the way up there tomorrow."
Garcia, who seized control with a career-best 61 on Friday, was at 14-under 196.
McIlroy birdied his last two holes for the second consecutive day for a 66, and he got his wish -- a spot in the final group.
Today is set up as a replay of The Open -- only with the roles reversed.
McIlroy had a six-shot lead going into the final round at Hoylake. Garcia, playing in the group ahead, made a spirited run and got within two shots late in the round until he faltered and McIlroy pulled away.
"Obviously, Rory is playing great, and we get along nicely as of right now," Garcia said. "I think we're both excited about it. We're definitely going to play hard. It will be nice to see if I can do the same thing he did to me a couple of weeks ago. So we'll see."
This time, it's McIlroy who has to chase.
"My goal today was to try and get in the final group," McIlroy said. "Sergio didn't quite have that luxury of seeing what I was doing on the last. It will be nice to play alongside him tomorrow and at least keep an eye on what's going on. Try to apply a bit of pressure when I can, but just really looking forward to getting in there and having another chance to win a tournament so soon after what happened at Hoylake."
Rickie Fowler, who also was in the hunt at Hoylake, took himself out of the picture on the final hole at Firestone. He went from the left trees to a plugged lie in the bunker, having to brace his right good against the side of a hill. He left it in the bunker and wound up with a double bogey for a 72, putting him 10 shots behind.
This isn't a two-man race for a World Golf Championship title.
Marc Leishman had a 68 and was five shots behind, while World No. 1 Adam Scott returned from the rain delay carrying only his long putter, the only weapon he needed to convert one last birdie for a 65 that at least left him with a slim chance. He was six shots behind, along with Keegan Bradley (68) and Justin Rose (70).
The race won't feature defending champion Tiger Woods. The eight-time winner at Firestone made only one birdie on Saturday -- he failed to birdie a par 5 for the second consecutive day -- and shot 72. He was 15 shots behind.
Perry leads 3M Championship
BLAINE, Minn. -- Kenny Perry eagled the last hole after waiting out a thunderstorm to take a one-shot lead Saturday after the second round of the Champions Tour's 3M Championship.
Perry shot a 9-under 63 to reach 16-under 128 at TPC Twin Cities.
The six-time senior winner birdied the par-3 17th and was on the green on the par-5 18th when play was stopped for the thunderstorm. After a two-hour delay, he made the 8-foot eagle putt.
First-round leader Marco Dawson was second after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, Gary Hallberg, Jeff Maggert and Gene Sauers were 13 under. Langer, coming off a record-breaking victory in the Senior British Open, and Maggert shot 67, and Hallberg and Sauers had 65s.
Dawson and Maggert were in the 18th fairway when play stopped. When play resumed, Dawson put a 5-iron pin high to set up an eagle, but Maggert -- tied for the lead at the time -- hit his approach shot in the water en route to a bogey.
Two shots back to start the day, Perry was 3 under on the front nine and added birdies at Nos. 10 and 15 to pull into a tie for the lead.
Fifth in the season-long points race, Perry has been one of the more consistent tour players, finishing no worse than 14th -- including four top-10s -- in his last six events. That includes a major win May 18 at the Regions Tradition.
Maggert, who started the day one shot back, bogeyed the first hole to fall to 7 under, before birdies on Nos. 3 and 4. Starting on No. 7, he birdied five of six holes to take a two-shot lead at 14 under, but promptly gave a shot back with a bogey on the par-4 14th.
Dawson tied for the lead with a birdie on the 318-yard par-4 seventh after he drove the green and two-putted. However, he didn't make another birdie until No. 16.
Langer, who won the event in 2009 and 2012 and won the Senior British Open by a tour-record 13 strokes last week, was 3 under on the front, but had just two birdies on the back nine.
Sports on 08/03/2014
Print Headline: Segrio, Rory set for final pairing