Fowler shares Firestone lead, Tiger toils to 71
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."