bridgestone.invitationalFormer US Open champion Jim Furyk fired a second consecutive four-under-par 66 to open up a four-shot lead after the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Friday.

Furyk finished 36 holes at eight-under 132 and has a solid lead heading into the weekend over Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Americans Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson in the final tune-up for next week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

“I felt like I had more confidence,” said Furyk. “I hit the ball more solid and I am just hoping to improve a little bit every day and hopefully Sunday I will have a lot of confidence.”

Reigning Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth, who is trying to dethrone Rory McIlroy as the No. 1 ranked player in the world, climbed the leaderboard with a two-under 68 and is tied for eighth, six strokes adrift of Furyk.

Lowry and Watson matched Furyk’s 66 while Johnson fired a three-under 67 for a four-under 136 total.

Furyk, 45, always seems to be in contention at this event as he has finished in the top-15 at the WGC-Bridgestone four of the past five years. 

He also finished runner-up twice, losing a playoff to Tiger Woods in 2001 and in 2012 when a bogey at the 72nd hole left him in second.

He began Friday just one shot back of first round leader Danny Lee and said knowing he was close helped motivate him to shoot a low score.

– ‘Keeps you concentrating’ –

“Some of us play our best rounds when we are close and not quite there. Being close keeps you concentrating a lot and you don’t take as much for granted,” said the 2003 US Open winner.

Furyk, who started on the 10th tee, had a strong finish with birdies at the seventh and eighth holes. He made bogey on the final hole but that was offset by some superb putting throughout a round that featured seven birdies.

“What I am really happy about is I was able to make six birdies yesterday and seven today,” he said. “I putted pretty well again. I left a few out there but was still able to knock some in and make some birdies.

“I felt better about my round today. I drove it better and hit some good iron shots. I made some mistakes but that is going to happen on this golf course.”

Spieth, who tied for fourth in his last outing at the Open Championship at St. Andrews, recorded his first ever round under par at the WGC-Bridgestone.

His round of six birdies and four bogeys included a 20-foot chip-in for birdie at the par-four third which got him to three under.

He followed that with back-to-back bogeys on the fourth and fifth.

“This game of golf can be a little odd in the slightest way sometimes,” said Spieth, who can overtake McIlroy for top spot if he wins at Firestone this weekend. 

“I was a little aggressive on a couple of putts. But very pleased with the way I can make six birdies hitting nine greens.” 

New Zealand’s Lee (72), Henrik Stenson (69) and Graeme McDowell (71) were tied at 137, five shots behind Furyk.  – Agence France-Presse

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