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Golf

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Associated Press
Tiger Woods hits his third shot at the 18th hole en route to a 61 and a seven-shot lead at the Bridgestone Invitational on Friday.

Woods shoots 61 to take 7-shot lead

– Tiger Woods had a shot at making history with a magical 59.

He swore he wasn’t disappointed to come up short.

“Disappointed? Absolutely not,” he said.

Then he cracked, “A 61’s pretty good. I’m not bummed.”

Like a pitcher having to settle for a shutout instead of a perfect game, Woods could console himself by tying his career best and building a seven-shot lead Friday through 36 holes at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Pursuing his eighth victory at Firestone Country Club, Woods opened birdie-eagle – stuffing an approach to 3 feet at the first hole and holing a 20-footer for 3 at the par-5 second. He had two more birdies on the front nine, and had four in a row to start the back nine in a light rain.

Needing to go only 2 under over his last five holes, he missed birdie putts inside 10 feet at 15 and 17. He saved par on the last with a 25-footer after an errant drive and a shot that hit into the trees and ended up in a bare spot short and right of the green.

“How about just pleased?” he said, when asked to rate the round. “I’m very happy I was able to post that. I just kept thinking, whatever lead I had, ‘Let’s just keep increasing it.’ It’s at seven now, I believe. So that’s not too bad after two days.”

The 61 – matching his career best at the 1999 Byron Nelson, 2005 Buick Open and on the same Firestone course back in 2000 – left him at 13-under 127.

Defending champion Keegan Bradley and Chris Wood, playing the tournament for the first time, were tied for second at 6-under 134. They each shot 68.

Bradley finished well before Woods, but was asked if it was disheartening to take the lead and then have Woods retake it after the opening two holes.

“Tiger, those first couple holes out there are definitely birdie holes, so I’d expect him to do that,” Bradley said. “You know, I hope he doesn’t go too low.”

Sorry, Keegan.

Woods, a four-time winner this year, needed only 22 putts, eight fewer than he had Thursday in an opening 66. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and was on in regulation on 16 of 18 greens.

The next best score on a threatening day with a slate-gray sky and precipitation was a 66.

It seemed every fan on the course took notice as Woods started stacking up birdies. The magic number 59 – shot five times on the PGA Tour – dominated conversations.

“Oh, they were excited,” Woods said. “You could hear it more than feel it. You definitely could hear it. They were into it.”

Asked if that kind of electricity helps out a player, he joked, “It’s nice to be playing in front of people who are excited like that, especially people who aren’t yelling just because your ball gets in the air. You know, we are pros.”

Playing partner Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, a 21-year-old who was sixth at the British Open, got a close-up view.

“It was great looking at great play at the top of the world,” he said.

The last player to shoot 59 in a PGA Tour event was Stuart Appleby in the final round of the Greenbrier Classic in 2010.

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