AKRON, Ohio — Sergio Garcia doesn’t know anything about being in a zone. He had no trouble identifying the best round of his career.
Garcia one-putted the final 11 holes and made birdies on his last seven holes Friday in the Bridgestone Invitational to tie the course record at Firestone with a 9-under 61 and take a three-shot lead into the weekend.
He had a birdie putt on every hole on the back nine, missing only a 15-footer from the fringe at No. 11. Garcia shot 27 on the back nine, a course record.
“Just one of those moments that you love and you enjoy, and you wish there were no end,” he said.
It matched the tournament record held by Tiger Woods, who shot 61 in 2000 and 2013, and Jose Maria Olazabal, who shot his 61 in 1990. Woods went on to win by 11 shots in 2000 and seven shots last year. Olazabal won by 12 in the World Series of Golf.
Garcia still has work to do.
He was at 11-under 129, three shots clear of Justin Rose, who had a 67. British Open champion Rory McIlroy birdied his last two holes for a 64 and joined Marc Leishman of Australia (67) four shots out of the lead.
McIlroy played in the group behind Garcia, and could hear what was going on if he couldn’t see it.
“Every time I looked, he was putting a ball in the hole and the crowd was cheering,” McIlroy said. “I knew that he was making a few birdies.”
Garcia was five shots out of the lead when he had to scramble to save pars on back-to-back holes to close out the front nine on what seemed to be an ordinary round. Two good swings on the 10th hole led to a 20-foot birdie putt. He hit 8-iron to 2 feet on No. 12 and 3 feet on No. 13 for the easiest birdies he had all day, and those turned out to be the start of his big run.
The Spaniard finished in style, making birdie putts of 15, 25 and 20 feet on his last three holes.
Watney leads Barracuda Championship: In Reno, Nev., Nick Watney increased his lead to three points Friday in the Barracuda Championship, scoring eight points in the modified Stableford event at Montreux to push his two-day total to 26.
Players receive eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for double bogey or worse.
Watney had five birdies and two bogeys in the morning session after making nine birdies in a bogey-free opening round.
Geoff Ogilvy was second, and Wes Roach was third at 22.
DAWSON CARDS 63 TO TAKE 3M CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD: In Blaine, Minn., Tuesday qualifier Marco Dawson shot a 9-under 63 to take the lead in the Champions Tour’s 3M Championship, leaving Bernhard Langer a stroke back.
Dawson, playing the back nine first at TPC Twin Cities, birdied three of his first four holes and chipped in for eagle on No. 18.
After a birdie on the par-5 third hole, he birdied three of his final four holes.
Langer, the two-time 3M champion who won by a tour-record 13 strokes Sunday at Royal Porthcawl, was tied for second with Jeff Maggert, Rocco Mediate and Vijay Singh.