Ricky Fowler upstages Tiger

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Ricky Fowler may not have stolen his massive galleries, but he certainly stole the spotlight from Tiger Woods on Friday.

Ricky Fowler may not have stolen his massive galleries, but he certainly stole the spotlight from Tiger Woods on the second day of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

For while Woods was mixing some good, some mediocre and some downright poor golf, notably on the greens, in posting a 1-over 71 that left him trailing the leaders by all of seven shots and equally as disappointed as he was happy with his opening 2-under 68, Fowler was charging into a share of the lead with a sparkling 6-under 64.

The always-colourful, 22-year-old Fowler had been six shots off the pace overnight after opening with a 68, but his eight birdies, one eagle and four bogeys rocketed him into a four-way tie for the lead at 8-under 132 with overnight leader Adam Scott of Australia and two more American young guns, Ryan Moore and PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley.

Scott, playing at the Firestone Country Club’s storied South Course for the first time with Woods’s former caddie Steve Williams on his bag – yes, the same one who carried Tiger’s bag in all seven of his Bridgestone victories here – failed to match the stunning 62 he shot in the opening round and came back to the pack with a level par 70.

Behind Fowler’s 64, the lanky Bradley reeled him in with a 65 and the stocky, shorter Moore with his second successive 66

“Overall it was a lot of fun today,” said Fowler, who needed only 21 putts playing alongside 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero for the first two rounds.

“I had a couple mistakes and made four bogeys but a lot of positives and a lot of good things came out of today. I made some good putts and I’m building some confidence going into the weekend.”

Scott, who posted two birdies as against two bogies, once more held sole possession of the lead when he walked onto his final tee box, but a bogey there at the last dropped him back into the four-way tie.

“Today was a little tougher. I started really solid, but couldn’t make anything on the front nine.

“It’s a hard golf course, and if you’re just a little off, you get quite severely penalised. There’s no real secret that it’s not easy to shoot a couple of 62s.”

Scott’s fellow Australian Jason Day, who fired a first-round 63 to secure second place overnight, got to eight under with a share of the lead on Friday before he too dropped a shot at his last, the par-four 18th, for a 70 that matched Scott’s and a share of fifth with Swede Robert Karlsson and Britain’s Martin Laird.

Seven days after putting on his kilt and getting married in Colorado, Laird was surprised to find himself just one shot off the lead.

“I came into this week feeling fresh and on a high,” said the 28-year-old from Glasgow, who has been based in the US since his college days.

“Sometimes it’s amazing when you have no expectations how well you play.”

Laird birdied the last three holes to add a 67 to his opening 66.

On a tightly bunched leaderboard, 20 players were within four strokes of the lead as this elite, big money event heads into the weekend

Fowler, one of the USA’s most exciting young prospects, treated the large gallery following his group to some stirring shot-making without being perfect.

He admitted his round contained too many bogeys, saying: “It was kind of just go, stop for a second, go, stop for a second. But it was fun. Making a lot of birdies is a good thing.

“I just happened to make a couple of bad swings and mistakes there that cost me a couple of strokes, but hopefully we’ll set those aside for the weekend and move on.”

Woods, who made an encouragingly solid start on Thursday in his first tournament in more than three months, struggled on Friday to find consistency and mixed four birdies with three bogeys and a double bogey.

“I didn’t putt as well as I did yesterday, and consequently I just never got the round going,” the 14-times major champion said after finishing at one under.

“I know my stats don’t show it, but just the way I’m driving the golf ball; I’m so close to putting the ball on a string. It’s coming.”

Woods, who has missed the last two majors because of a left knee injury, said he had struggled with his distance control for a second day in a row.

“I’ve got so much more compression now and the ball is just going,” he said.

“I’ve just got to get used to that and trust the number. I’m hitting ball numbers (distances) I’ve never hit before.”

Among the best of the Brits on Friday, US Open champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland carded a second successive 68 to lie four strokes off the pace, one better than England’s World No 1 Luke Donald who struggled with his putting on his way to a 69.

World No 2 Lee Westwood had been close to the lead at six under with six holes to play, but he stumbled on the closing stretch with four bogeys and his 2nd round 71.may have put him a bridge too far this week.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

132 Ryan Moore (USA) 66 66, Rickie Fowler (USA) 68 64, Adam Scott (Aus ) 62 70, Keegan Bradley (USA) 67 65
133 Martin Laird (Sco) 66 67, Robert Karlsson (Swe) 68 65, Jason Day (Aus) 63 70
134 Fredrik Jacobson (Swed) 68 66, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 66 68
135 Hennie Otto (RSA) 69 66 Nick Watney (USA), 65 70 yo Ishikawa (Jap) 67 68

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