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Sergio Garcia leads Bridgestone Invitational

Sergio Garcia celebrates after closing with seven straight birdies to shoot 9-under 61 and take a three-shot lead.

MCT

Sergio Garcia celebrates after closing with seven straight birdies to shoot 9-under 61 and take a three-shot lead.

AKRON, Ohio — Sergio Garcia doesn't know anything about being in a zone. He had no trouble identifying the best round of his career.

Garcia one-putted the final 11 holes and made birdies on his last seven holes Friday in the Bridgestone Invitational to tie the course record at Firestone with 9-under 61 and take a three-shot lead.

He had a birdie putt on every hole on the back nine, missing only a 15-footer from the fringe at No. 11. Garcia shot 27 on the back nine, a course record.

"Just one of those moments that you love and you enjoy, and you wish there were no end," he said.

It matched the tournament record held by Tiger Woods (2000 and 2013) and Jose Maria Olazabal (1990).

Garcia was at 11-under 129, three shots clear of Justin Rose, who had 67. Rory McIlroy birdied his last two holes for 64 and joined Marc Leishman (67) at four back.

Garcia was five shots out of the lead when he scrambled to save pars on back-to-back holes to close out the front nine on what seemed to be an ordinary round. Two good swings on the 10th hole led to a 20-foot birdie putt. He hit an 8-iron to 2 feet on No. 12 and 3 feet on No. 13 for the easiest birdies he had all day, the start of his big run.

The Spaniard made birdie putts of 15, 25 and 20 feet on his last three holes.

It reminded Garcia of the Travelers Championships this summer, when Kevin Streelman closed with seven straight birdies to beat Garcia and K.J. Choi by one shot.

"When I made the one on 17 I thought, 'This kind of looks familiar from what happened not too long ago,' " Garcia said. "Obviously, Sunday would be even nicer."

His best score was 62 — as a 19-year-old at the Scottish Open and Byron Nelson Classic in 1999, and in 2002 at the American Express Championship.

Woods hit only four fairways off the tee and is 10 shots behind.

"I didn't hit the ball well. I didn't putt well. I didn't do anything well," Woods said. "The only thing I did well was I fought hard. Grinded hard. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very good day."

pga championship pairings: Woods and Phil Mickelson will play together in the opening two rounds of the PGA Championship next week at Valhalla in Louisville. Padraig Harrington will join Woods and Mickelson in the 8:35 a.m. tee time for the first round Thursday.

PGA: Nick Watney increased his lead to three points in the Barracuda Championship, scoring eight points in the modified Stableford event at Montreux Golf and Country Club in Reno, Nev., to push his two-day total to 26. Players receive eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for double bogey or worse. Geoff Ogilvy was second.

champions: Tuesday qualifier Marco Dawson chipped in for eagle and shot a first-round 9-under 63 to take the lead in the 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn. Bernhard Langer, Jeff Maggert, Rocco Mediate and Vijay Singh were tied for second at 64. Paul Goydos shot 67 in his Champions debut.

Sergio Garcia leads Bridgestone Invitational 08/01/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2014 9:22pm]

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