Ryan Moore could qualify as an unofficial spokesman for the inordinately high number of contenders in the Bridgestone Invitational.
“It feels good. This is where you want to be, obviously, going into the weekend,” Moore said. “I’m right in the mix, I’m right up there where I want to be and need to be.”
So true for him — and many, many others.
Moore was one of four players who finished the second round at the top of the leaderboard on a humid Friday on the South Course at Firestone Country Club. He concluded his day at 8-under 132, as did neon-green-clad Rickie Fowler, first-round leader Adam Scott and tournament rookie Keegan Bradley.
Such clutter was not limited to the top of the standings. Sixteen other players were at 4-under par or better, headed to the third round today. Another 15 were at 3- or 2-under par and were not necessarily eliminated from championship contention.
“I’m still right there,” said Jason Day, who bogeyed the final hole late in the day to fall out of a five-way tie for the lead and settle for a tie for fifth with Martin Laird and Robert Karlsson at 7-under 133.
Fowler, 22, a native Californian now living in Jupiter, Fla., had an eventful round and not just because it resulted in a score of 6-under 64, which tied for the lowest of the day. It was an adventure of red and black numbers — a contrast to his bright green shirt that could be seen on Warner Road —- because it included just five pars.
The round also featured eight birdies, an eagle and four bogeys. His finishing nine, which was on the front side, started with a par and was followed by this colorful sequence: birdie, eagle, bogey, birdie, birdie, bogey, birdie, bogey.
“My four bogeys, I just had a couple mistakes, hit it in some rough spots that made it tough on me to get up-and-down for par,” said Fowler, whose past successes include winning the 2005 Hudson Junior Invitational at the Country Club of Hudson. “Other than that, a lot of good came out of the day. Making that many birdies, I mean, you’ve got to be doing something right. I got some confidence going into the weekend.”
Fowler, who finished in a tie for 33rd place in his Firestone Country Club debut in 2010, needed only a Friday-best 21 putts in his round, sinking birdies of 25, 24, and 18 feet.
But the most memorable part of his round was his eagle on the 442-yard, par-4 third hole. Officials said it was only the second eagle on the hole in tournament play since 1983.
He hit a perfect drive of 320 yards in the fairway and his gap wedge from 109 yards went past the hole and spun back into the bottom of the cup.
“I hit two perfect shots,” said Fowler when asked to comment on the eagle.
Moore, 28, of Scottsdale, Ariz., had a streaky round of his own in shooting his second-consecutive 4-under 66. He lost his way with three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 7-9, but immediately followed that with three consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-12.
“I was kind of cruising. I was playing solid and I think that was a little smack in the face to make me focus a little more and really grind it out on the back nine,” said Moore, referring to the three bogeys in a row.
Moore, who has one championship since joining the PGA Tour on a full-time basis in 2006, was in contention despite defying long odds by using a new putter this week, one that he had for years but never tried.
The move came more on a whim than anything else.
“For some reason or another, I changed putters this week, back to something that’s a little more traditional for me length-wise, and I just feel pretty comfortable …standing over it right now,” said Moore, who is 39th in the World Golf Rankings. “I think my alignment is pretty good and these greens are rolling really good.”
Scott, 31, an Australian now living in Switzerland, shot an 8-under 62 Thursday to take the first round lead, but was a passenger on the par train Friday and couldn’t get off. He opened with 10 consecutive pars and could manage only two birdies, which were offset by two bogeys, for a par 70.
“Well, obviously, I had a lot of momentum Thursday … but today was a little rougher. I started really solid, but couldn’t make anything on the front nine,” said Scott, who has won seven PGA Tour titles in his career. “I was scrambling a bit coming in. But it was fairly solid golf, other than that. A 70 around this course is never really that bad.”
Scott accepted the 70 because he understood that the score 24 hours earlier was not destined to be everyday occurrence.
“The last time I shot 62 was a long time ago, so am I going to expect to do it two days in a row? I don’t think so,” Scott said. “It’s a hard golf course … so to do it two days in a row would be exceptional.”
Bradley, 28, of Woodstock, Vt., is the most unlikely name among the leaders. He is No. 115 in the World Golf Rankings, and has one championship in two years on tour. This is his first time at Firestone Country Club and his first World Golf Championships event.
After opening with a 3-under 67 on Thursday, Bradley was bogey-free with a 5-under 65 on Friday.
“I played a great round of golf today. It was really fun,” said Bradley, whose tour title came at the Byron Nelson Championship in Texas in May. “It’s great to be out here at Firestone in the middle of contention at this tournament. Today was one of the more fun days of my career, for sure.”
Bradley, a Nationwide Tour graduate, had the most fun on the front side when he had four birdies on his way to a 4-under 31. He closed with eight pars and a lone birdie on No. 18 on the back.
Rory McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion, shot his second consecutive 68 and was one of eight players tied for 13th at 4-under 136. Luke Donald, the leader in the World Golf Rankings, was tied for 21st place with five others at 3-under 137.
Tiger Woods, playing for the first time since May, once again drew a large gallery. He shot a 1-over 71 to stand in a tie for 36th place at 1-under 139.
Tom Gaffney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.