Jimmy Walker strides into halfway lead at WGC-Bridgestone

Rory McIlroy

Australia's Scott Hend has fallen away from the leaders midway through the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.

Pieters began the third round two shots off the lead held by US PGA champion Jimmy Walker, but stormed into a three-shot lead with five birdies in his first eight holes.

Pieters had opened up a three-shot lead over the field after a blistering start, although he endured an erratic run on the back nine before matching Johnson's earlier three at the last to join the two-time major victor on nine under par.

Joining Spieth and McIlroy on 67 were double Masters victor Bubba Watson, Englishman Ross Fisher, Spaniard Jon Rahm and American Kevin Kisner in a round that was played two hours earlier than originally planned to avoid threatening thunderstorms in the forecast. Dustin Johnson is way behind at 1-over-par.

Pieters is the highest-ranked Belgian golfer ever at world number 34.

Missing out on victory was hard for the American to take but he has a great chance of redemption after moving into a share of the lead at the Bridgestone Invitational with just 18 holes to play.

He fashioned together a crisp bogey-free round at the Firestone Country Club course. "My shots are going pretty straight, too", the 25-year-old said.

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"I was pretty bad from the tee, but managed to hit a lot of greens". That was important as well.

Griffin, who opened with rounds of 66-65, has a 54-hole total of 197, which leaves him two shots behind leader Andrew Yun heading into Sunday's final round. Stacy Lewis, another past Open victor, was another shot back after 65.

Johnson finished with eight birdies and three bogeys in his five-under par 65, while Pieters had eight birdies and four bogeys in his four-under 66.

"I'm not nailing my shots all that much but I'm getting more that feel good and they created more opportunities for me".

The Northern Irishman split with his caddie of nine years, J.P. Fitzgerald, following the British Open.

But he appeared to tweak his troublesome back, and had two bogeys and a birdie coming in. "I was able to judge the distance right and it kind of rolled up to the top of the hill and trickled back and went in". "A little bit frustrating, but I'm only three behind".

Pieters, who is from Belgium and played college golf at the University of IL, made five early birdies to vault into the lead after eight holes, but he stalled from there and parred 11 holes the rest of the way.

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