Just over a year ago Jimmy Walker won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club, then finished third two weeks later at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Since then, he’s had just one top-10 finish, but has managed seven top-25s this season despite battling Lyme disease. On Friday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Walker matched his round of the year, a five-under 65 on Firestone Country Club’s South Course to grab a two-stroke lead at seven-under 133.
Walker, 38, made birdie on three of his first five holes, and after dropping a shot at the par-3 seventh, bounced back with another birdie at the eighth. He then played his final 10 holes in bogey-free two under. While he hasn’t had his best season, Walker has still made 13 of 18 cuts and made more than a $1 million. His game appears to be rounding into form just in time for his title defense next week at Quail Hollow.
Two back is Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, the Day 1 leader, who carded an even-par 70 and sits at five-under 135.
Two of the world’s top four players, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama, are three strokes off the lead at four-under 136. McIlroy, 28, carded a one-under 69 that featured just two birdies and one bogey. Japan’s Matsuyama posted a three-under 67. With a win this week, he can add a second World Golf Championship to his stellar 2016-’17 campaign.
Zach Johnson is also at four-under 136 after shooting a second-round three-under 67. The two-time major champion is in search of his first victory since the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Despite not being a big hitter, Johnson, 41, has fared well at Firestone’s long South Course, finishing in the top-25 five times and the top-10 four times in 12 starts at the Bridgestone.
Six players are tied for sixth at three-under 137, including Jason Day and Jordan Spieth.