Phil Mickelson edged into the lead at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational with Lee Westwood among those hot on his heels after the Englishman shot a brilliant five under par 65.
Mickelson’s four under par effort saw him replace overnight leader Retief Goosen at the top of the leaderboard on six under for the tournament with Westwood moving alongside 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson and fellow American Sean O’Hair and Australian Peter Lonard on five under par.
Westwood leads the European Tour challenge after the lowest score of the week so far at Firestone Country Club, Ohio.
Starting at the tenth, he birdied his first two holes as he set about improving on his opening 70.
The Englishman was still two under at the turn but then birdied the first and second and despite a bogey at three he picked up shots at the fourth and sixth as he climbed the leaderboard. A par save on the last was an important way to finish.
“It was nice to get up and down on the ninth and almost redeem myself from the previous two greens where I missed two good birdie chances,” said Westwood. “That would have been sickening not to birdie either of those, and then to bogey the 9th, so that was a good finish.”
Westwood’s last visit Stateside saw him finish third in the US Open where he played alongside Tiger Woods in the fanial round before just missing out on a place in the play-off.
“I've taken a lot of confidence from that,” he commented. “It's not going to get any more pressurized or there's not going to be more going on than playing in the last round of the US Open with Tiger, everything that was going on with his knee and trying to win the tournament, as well. I tried to carry on that confidence that I built up there into this event.
“Obviously this is a golf course I've played well on in the past. I've shot 63 around here and I think I hold the lowest score for the back nine. It's just a golf course that I stand on and a lot of shots suit my eye.
“I know there's a lot of crosswinds out there, but they don't seem to worry me too much, either. In some ways I always look forward to coming and playing. Obviously with no cut, as well, this week you can really sort of go out there and take the reins off and play freely.”
Mickelson was the man to catch after his 66 took him to six under par. Starting at the tenth, Mickelson birdied the par four opener and he birdied the 14th as the American’s second round got off to a good start.
He then picked up a shot at the par five second and made it back-to-back birdies with a three at the third.
A birdie two at the seventh was cancelled out by a bogey at eight to ensure Mickelson followed up yesterday’s 68 with a 66.
Sean O’Hair compiled a 67 to move to five under for the tournament along with Westwood - one shot behind Mickelson.
Australia’s Lonard had an up and down first four holes but a strong finish left him in the frame on five under for the tournament after a second round 66.
Miguel Angel Jiménez is one shot further back amongst a group of eight players on four under after a 66 - which would have been even better but for a double bogey at the 18th, his ninth, but he bounced back well and is enjoying the experience.
Paul McGinley also edged into contention after a three under par 67 left him three behind Mickelson. McGinley is hoping for a good month to force his way into the European Ryder Cup Team.
“I'm so far behind money wise,” said the Irishman, a member of the last three winning teams, on is Ryder Cup prospects. “I've missed out so much. But the next four weeks, any kind of form the next four weeks will put me in contention. It’s a long shot, but we'll see.
“I haven't played well enough to be in it, certainly not well enough to be in the Team at the moment. But you never know, a month of form and you never know what could happen.”
Overnight leader Retief Goosen was among the afternoon starters.