Rory Sabbatini continued to make a difficult golf course look like a breeze on Friday, running off three straight birdies toward the end of his round for another three-under 67 and a two shot lead over Zach Johnson in the Bridgestone Invitational.
What appeared to be a tuneup for the final major of the season next week at the US PGA Championship is starting to look like it might be an even tougher test. Sabbatini was at six-under 134, with only seven other players able to break par.
Five-time champion Tiger Woods was one of them after an even par 70 in which he had no complaints until reaching the green. He made only two birdies despite hitting 15 greens in regulation, and those were wiped out by a pair of three-putts from about 11m in which he left the first putt about 3m short of the hole.
"They looked fast, but for some reason they putted a little bit slower than I thought they did [Thursday]," Woods said. "I just had a hard time making the adjustment."
He was at 138 along with Scott Verplank (68) and Kenny Perry, who had his second straight 69.
Johnson and Davis Love III had the best rounds of the tournament at 65. Love wound up in the group at 139 that included Lee Westwood and Chris DiMarco.
Johnson attributed his score to hitting fairways and making a bunch of putts, his recipe for winning the US Masters.
"Some of the guys were joking around at lunch that this is one of those courses where if the US Open needed an emergency course, I think you could probably come here within a week's time," he said.
Paul Casey and Hunter Mahan, who shared the first round lead with Sabbatini, both sputtered. Mahan didn't make a birdie until the final hole in his round of 73, while Casey got hung up in the rough on the 18th on his way to a double bogey to also shoot 73. They were at 140.
Sabbatini was headed in that direction, especially after finding the rough left of the 14th fairway and taking bogey. But he holed a 7m birdie putt on the par three 15th, wisely laid up on the 16th and made a 5m birdie putt, then hit an eight iron up the hill on the 17th to about 4m right of the pin for this third straight birdie.
"It's a matter of picking and choosing your targets out there," he said. "There are opportunities you have that you can be aggressive, but you have to kind of back down and just give the course respect. Otherwise, it'll hit you pretty quick."
FLESCH OUT IN FRONT IN RENO
AFP, RENO, Nevada
Steve Flesch fired a three under 69 on Friday to stretch his lead to two strokes at the halfway stage of the Reno-Tahoe Open.
Flesch, who missed the course record by one shot with his 63 on Thursday, had a 36-hole total of 12 under 132, two strokes in front of Charles Warren.
Warren surged into second place with a nine under 63 that included seven birdies and an eagle for 134. Argentina's Jose Coceras was two more shots back after a 72.
Flesch, 40, had six birdies on the day along with a bogey and a double-bogey. He started on the back nine and birdied three of four holes from the 15th.
He slipped up with a double-bogey at the par three second hole, where he was bunkered off the tee and failed to get out with his second shot.
That saw him fall into a tie for the lead with Warren. But Flesh battled back with a birdie at No. 4, then picked up another birdie at the eighth where he nearly holed his approach.