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Graeme McDowell is battling hard to stay at the business end

By Phil Casey

Graeme McDowell could only add a second round of 71 to his opening 66 in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, but that was enough to remain high on the leaderboard in Akron.

McDowell, whose sole top-10 finish so far this season came in Dubai in February, carded two bogeys and one birdie at Firestone Country Club to set the early clubhouse target on three under par.

That left the former US Open champion a shot behind Ryder Cup team-mate Henrik Stenson and three adrift of the Swede's playing partner Jim Furyk, who both had six holes to play, but it was a shot in front of his own playing partner Brooks Koepka, who had claimed the outright lead after five birdies and a bogey in his first 12 holes before a hat-trick of bogeys from the fifth.

England's Justin Rose was two under par with four holes to play after breaking a run of 22 straight pars, starting from the ninth hole on Thursday, with a bogey on the fourth, his 13th hole of the day.

And Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth was a shot further back approaching the end of his second round after five birdies and four bogeys.

Spieth will replace Rory McIlroy at the top of the world rankings with a victory tomorrow, with McIlroy dropping further hints yesterday that he would be fit to defend his US PGA title at Whistling Straits next week following the ankle injury he suffered playing football at the start of July.

Tournament organisers released selected tee times yesterday, and McIlroy has been grouped with the winners of this year's Majors, Spieth and Zach Johnson, for the first two rounds.

McIlroy has not officially said he will play the year's final Major but his Twitter account did retweet the news from the PGA of America.

The 26-year-old suffered a "total rupture" of ligaments in his left ankle during a game of football with friends on July 4, ruling him out of the Scottish Open and the defence of his Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational titles.

However, this week he has given numerous hints via social media that he would be able to return to action, culminating in a post yesterday which showed the inside of a private plane along with emojis depicting a US flag, a thumbs-up symbol and a golf flag.

On Wednesday, McIlroy posted a video on his Instagram account in which he was seen balancing on his left leg and twisting and throwing a gym ball to mimic the actions of the golf swing.

Alongside the short video clip, McIlroy wrote: "Working hard every day to come back stronger #dontmindthegrind."

He has also shared photographs of his ankle from four and three, saying: "I've come a long way since."

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