Jim Furyk (Getty Images)
A modest Jim Furyk conceded the draw had worked to his advantage after he retained top spot in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with another assured performance at Firestone.
In reaching 11 under with a 66 featuring five birdies and a solitary dropped shot, Furyk registered the second lowest 36-hole score in this event’s history and boosted his hopes of claiming victory for the first time at a venue where he has had seven top ten finishes.
The 2003 US Open Champion holds a two stroke advantage over Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who once again made light of a stomach virus by firing 65, the same score Louis Oosthuizen - another Major winner - recorded to lie third on eight under.
After storming to the summit of the leaderboard yesterday afternoon with a sparkling 63, Furyk was pleased to be among the early starters today.
“Obviously it was nice to get off to a great start shooting 63, and then maybe even nicer to have that happen in the afternoon where I could turn around and get right back out on the golf course again this morning,” he explained.
“(It was) just probably a little easier to keep the momentum going that way, (rather) than having an early time on Thursday morning, having a good round and having to sit on it until Friday afternoon.”
Despite being buoyed by the short gap between his two opening rounds, Furyk revealed he had looked to start afresh this morning.
“I think the mindset really was to kind of forget about what happened on Thursday and just try to go out there and shoot a good number,” he added.
“I tried to forget about what I had shot and where I was at and felt like if I could shoot under par on both nines and play a good round, I'd put myself in great position for the weekend.
“I feel pretty comfortable out here and know when the centre of the green is a good idea and when I can take a shot at the pin and try to get one in there a little closer.”
Cabrera-Bello, who roared out of the blocks by picking up shots at two and three on his way to six birdies in all, was similarly satisfied, having once again delivered despite being short of 100% fitness.
“I do feel strong; I don't feel bad, but unfortunately my stomach is still no good,” he revealed.
Focussing on his performance, the 28-year-old said: “I felt that I played really good today. Easy is not the word, but it just went smooth the entire round.
“I started off good, played consistent through the middle holes and then had a really good finish.”
Oosthuizen, three under after day one, was well adrift of Furyk for much of the morning but collected four birdies on his back nine after starting on the tenth.
“I played really well. I drove it well and made nice putts,” he said. “I'm very happy on the two rounds.”
A spectacular putt from just off the green at the ninth represented the perfect end to the 2010 Open Champion’s round.
“The minute it left the face I knew it had a good speed, so I hoped it got a good line, and it went perfect,” Oosthuizen said.
None of the afternoon starters were able to challenge the leaders, although Jason Dufner carded 66 to move into fourth on seven under.
World Number One Luke Donald was two shots further back in a tie for sixth following a 69 that contained three birdies and two bogeys.
"It's a tough course," said Donald. "What Jim has done is pretty impressive but six shots over two days isn't that many; if I can keep playing like I am and giving myself these opportunities and getting the putter to work a little bit better than it did today, I think I'd be hopeful to try and close that gap."