Akron, Ohio: While Tiger Woods failed to build on his solid start to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Friday`s second round, fellow American Rickie Fowler rocketed into a four-way tie for the lead.
The long-haired Fowler, six strokes off the pace overnight, fired a sizzling six-under-par 64 at Firestone Country Club to post an eight-under total of 132 in the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event.
Helped by an eagle at the par-four third, where he holed out with a wedge from 110 yards, the 22-year-old ended the round level with compatriots Ryan Moore and Keegan Bradley, and Australian Adam Scott.
Moore carded a 66 and Bradley a 65 while first-round pacesetter Scott, who briefly claimed the outright lead at nine under, bogeyed his final hole for a 70.
Australian Jason Day, who opened with a 63, also got to eight under before he dropped a shot at the par-four 18th for a 70 and a share of fifth with Swede Robert Karlsson (65) and Britain`s Martin Laird.
Seven-times champion Woods, however, was unable to capitalize on the momentum of his opening 68 as he followed up with a roller-coaster 71 to lie seven off the lead on his PGA Tour return.
Fowler, one of the game`s most exciting young prospects who is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory, surged up the leaderboard with a wild mix of eight birdies, an eagle and four bogeys.
"Overall it was a lot of fun today," said the Californian, who played the first two rounds in the company of 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero.
"I had a couple mistakes out there 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."
After parring his first three holes, Fowler treated the large gallery watching the young duo to a thrilling display of superb shot-making, offset by a few blemishes.
"It was kind of just go, stop for a second, go, stop for a second," he said with a smile. "But it`s 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 carded an encouraging 68 on Thursday in his first tournament in three months, struggled for consistency with a mixture of four birdies, 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, so it`s coming."
Woods, who has missed the last two majors because of leg injuries, said he had struggled with his distance control for a second day in a row.
"I got so much more compression and the ball is just going," he said. "I`ve just got to get used to that and trust the number. I`m hitting the ball numbers I`ve never hit before."