Akron, Ohio — Nobody has a better scoring average Saturday on the PGA Tour than Tiger Woods, and the Bridgestone Invitational would be a good time to keep that up.
Woods might not have a choice.
Neither will Rory McIlroy, Jason Day or anyone else wanting to keep pace.
Tommy Fleetwood took advantage of another soft day of good scoring at Firestone with a 7-under 63. So did PGA champion Justin Thomas, who was particularly sharp with his putter for a 64. They shared the lead with Ian Poulter, who had a head start with his career-low 62 and backed it up decently enough Friday with a 67.
They all played early and finished at 11-under 129.
No one could catch them, mainly because there was just enough breeze to cause just enough doubt.
Even so, 45 players from the 71-man field were under par, a rarity at Firestone. Woods, whose last victory was five years ago when he won this World Golf Championship for a record eighth time, got within four shots of the lead with a tee shot to 2 feet on the par-3 12th hole. He went 1 over the rest of the way for a 68, leaving him five shots behind.
Is another Saturday move in the works?
"I'm going to have to," Woods said. "The golf course is playing very soft, very receptive. And when you're able to hit 5-irons and they only roll out about a foot, the guys are going to put up good scores. There's 40-plus guys under par. That's never the case here at Firestone. So tomorrow is going to be one of those days I'm going to have to go out there and post a low one and see what happens."
Fleetwood, the runner-up at the U.S. Open, was most pleased to see nothing higher than 4s on his scorecard. He made it look easy, except for a few times he was slightly out of position, and hit perhaps his best shot with a 6-iron to a back-left pin that settled 3 feet below the cup.
"My irons, I just tended to hit exactly where we were picking the spots and I holed a few putts," Fleetwood said. "You've got days like that where it's going well, and you've just got to make the most of them."
Day, who threw away a chance to win at Firestone two years ago, did make as many as he would have liked. He still had a 66 playing in the same group with Woods, and joined Kyle Stanley (68) two shots behind the leaders.
McIlroy was another shot behind after a finishing a day of frustration with two birdies. He was in position to make birdies, especially that 380-yard drive he launched at the 482-yard eighth hole that left him only a sand wedge in. It came up short, rolled down a slope and left him 45 feet away. He blasted a 319-yard drive down the middle at the 10th, only to hit sand wedge just over the green and made bogey.
His finish began with a tee shot on the 17th hole that landed closer to the 16th fairway. His approach went into the front bunker, and he holed out for birdie. Then, he stuffed one on the 18th for another short birdie at a 67.
"An adventure to say the least," McIlroy said. "I was 1 under standing on the 17th tee and I think if I had to finish 1 under, it would have felt like the worst I could have shot today. So to get those two birdies on the last two holes is obviously very nice and gets a couple closer to the lead."
Women's British Open
Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand is standing out at the Women’s British Open for more than just her pink golf ball.
The 97th-ranked player has yet to drop a shot in two straight rounds of 5-under 67 that will give her a one-stroke lead heading into the weekend at the year’s fourth major.
While first-round leader Minjee Lee and Mamiko Higa encountered problems down the stretch at a rainy Royal Lytham to give up two-shot leads on Friday, Pornanong played a steady hand and put her pink ball in all the right places — explicitly, out of the many bunkers that define the course.
The 28-year-old Thai missed a 10-foot putt for birdie in front of the clubhouse on the 18th green but that didn’t get her down. She was 10 under par overall.
“I’ve had a game plan,” Pornanong said. “I try to plan every shot, every hole.”
It’s given her a great chance of winning a first major title, and claiming a first victory on the LPGA Tour. Her last win was on the Asian Tour in January 2015 and she has only one top-10 finish all year.
Pornanong’s only top-10 at a major was a tie for seventh at the U.S. Women’s Open in 2014.
She has already put some distance between many of the big names in women’s golf.
Top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn was seven shots back after rounds of 71 and 70, No. 6 Shanshan Feng (71-71) was one stroke further back, and No. 2 Inbee Park (76-74) missed the cut.
Aaron Baddeley took advantage of Ollie Schniederjans' late double bogey to take the lead Friday in the Barracuda Championship, the PGA Tour's only modified Stableford scoring event.
Baddeley had six birdies in a bogey-free round in shifting wind conditions at Montreux Golf and Country Club, scoring 12 points under the format that awards eight points for albatross, five for eagle, two for birdie and zero for par, and subtracts a point for bogey and three for double bogey or worse.
Baddeley had a 26-point total for a one-point lead over Schniederjans.
The 37-year-old Australian won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2016.
Schniederjans, the first-round leader, fell back with the double bogey in the tricky wind on the par-3 seventh — his 16th hole of the day.
Sam Saunders, Andrew Putnam and John Merrick were tied for third with 23 points.