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Fleetwood, Thomas join Poulter atop

LOS ANGELES: Tommy Fleetwood fired a seven-under par 63 to join overnight leader Ian Poulter and Justin Thomas atop the WGC Bridgestone Invitational leaderboard on Friday. The trio made the most of perfect morning scoring conditions, finishing the second round on 11-under 129, two strokes in front of American Kyle Stanley, who carded a 68 and Australian Jason Day, who produced a four-under 66 in the afternoon.

Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy was a stroke back after a 67 for 132, tied with South Korean Kim Si-woo who posted a 68.

Day played alongside eight-time Bridgestone winner Tiger Woods, who had four birdies and two bogeys in a two-under 68 that left him tied for 10th, five shots behind the leaders and still in the mix heading into the weekend. “I’m really putting well, just didn’t quite hit the putts hard enough today,” Woods said.

Fleetwood didn’t put a foot wrong at Firestone Country Club, where he said his early tee time was a big advantage on Firestone’s fast greens. “First thing out today we were going to get them as good as you get them,” he said. “They were just rolling so pure.

“This morning was a morning to score, for sure,” added Fleetwood, who teed off on 10 and birdied 11, 13 and 16. He added four more birdies on his inward run.

“I was just signing my card there and realized I hadn’t had a five,” Fleetwood said. “I think I got away with one bad tee shot where it bounced out of the trees, but apart from that played lovely, putted really nice and just picked them off.”

Fleetwood, a four-time winner on the European Tour who has flashed impressive form in all three majors this year but remains in search of a first title in the United States.

“It’s great we keep getting in position,” he said. “We’re obviously doing a lot of things right. Winning is hard. Hopefully eventually it will happen but it’s great to put myself back in position again.”

Thomas was impressive off the tee in carding a six-under 64 while Poulter, who held a one-shot lead after his first-round 62, signed for a 67.

Poulter in position

“It’s always tough to follow a near-perfect round of golf,” Poulter said. “Today I didn’t drive it quite as well, didn’t putt quite as good as I wanted to.

“But it’s in position,” he said. “Whenever you play a couple like that around this golf course and you’re sitting there at the top of the leaderboard you’re pretty happy.”

For Thomas, it was another confidence-building round as he prepares to defend his PGA Championship title at Bellerive in St Louis next week.

“It helps a lot,” said Thomas, a two-time winner early in the season who has finished inside the top 10 just once in his last eight starts. “It’s just giving me a lot of confidence because I know that I’ve been close for a while and I just haven’t had the results or the scores to show it.” — AFP

WGC Bridgestone Invitational

second round scores

(USA unless noted, par 70):

129 - Ian Poulter (ENG) 62-67, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 66-63, Justin Thomas 65-64

131 - Kyle Stanley 63-68, Jason Day (AUS) 65-66

132 - Kim Si-woo (KOR) 64-68, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 65-67

133 - Li Haotong (CHN) 66-67, Luke List 65-68

134 - Jon Rahm (ESP) 64-70, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 68-66, Tony Finau 68-66, Marc Leishman (AUS) 65-69, Tiger Woods 66-68, Webb Simpson 69-65

135 - Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 68-67, Patton Kizzire 68-67, Ross Fisher (ENG) 67-68, Phil Mickelson 66-69, Anirban Lahiri (IND) 65-70, Rafa Cabrera Bello 68-67

136 - Patrick Reed 66-70, Brooks Koepka 66-70, Ted Potter 70-66, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 66-70, Patrick Cantlay 64-72

137 - Rickie Fowler 63-74, Kevin Na 65-72, Andrew Landry 70-67, Russell Knox (SCO) 67-70

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