Three Share Lead At Firestone; Phatlum Leads Women’s British Open

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — 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.”

WOMEN’S BRITISH OPEN

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — 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.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

BLAINE, Minn. — Jerry Smith said his opening round at the TPC Twin Cities wasn’t as stress-free as it might have appeared.

Nonetheless, Smith made three late birdies to shoot a bogey-free 8-under 64 on Friday and take a two-shot lead at the 3M Championship.

Kenny Perry, Lee Janzen, Peter Lonard and Glen Day were two strokes back.