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Golf: Sizzling Sergio seizes Bridgestone lead

Sergio Garcia surged to the top of the Bridgestone Invitational leaderboard with a sensational nine-under par 61 on Friday (August 1) that included eight back-nine birdies.

AKRON, United States: Sergio Garcia surged to the top of the Bridgestone Invitational leaderboard with a sensational nine-under par 61 on Friday (August 1) that included eight back-nine birdies.

The Spaniard was a sedate one-under for the day through nine after a birdie at the second hole. But he caught fire after the turn at Firestone Country Club. A birdie at 10 was followed by a par at 11, before Garcia raced home with birdies at the 12th-through 18th holes to match the course record and build a 36-hole total of 11-under 129. He was three strokes ahead of England's Justin Rose, who posted a three-under 67 for 132.

Recently crowned British Open champion Rory McIlroy fired a six-under 64 for 133, where he was joined in third place by overnight leader Marc Leishman of Australia, who posted a one-under 69.

Garcia, who tied for second behind McIlroy in the Open at Hoylake in July, moved to the top of the leaderboard when he rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at 16. With his closing two birdies, he matched the course record of 61 set by compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal in 1990 and twice matched by Tiger Woods, in 2000 and 2013.

Woods carded a 61 in the second round here last year on the way to his eighth triumph at Firestone. On Friday the 14-time major champion had to settle for a one-over 71 that left him one-under for the tournament and tied for 25th. The 38-year-old superstar is playing just his third event since back surgery on March 31.

He needs strong finishes this week and in next week's PGA Championship at Valhalla if he is to make the the US PGA Tour's FedEx Cup play-offs and give himself more tournaments to impress US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.

Woods said his play on Friday wasn't going to get the job done. "I didn't hit the ball well. I didn't putt well. I didn't do anything well," Woods said after posting three birdies and four bogeys. "The only thing I did well was I fought hard, grinded hard. Unfortunately, it wasn't very good today."

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