JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) – Matt Kuchar joined the birdie brigade at Liberty National to overtake clubhouse leaders Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland by a stroke late in the second round of The Barclays on Friday.
Kuchar registered five birdies without a bogey to reach 10 under par after 13 holes on the scenic layout perched at the edge of New York harbor before play was halted due to darkness.
“I’m really pleased with how I’m playing,” said 35-year-old Kuchar, who felt it could be a positive to be one of the 40 players coming back on Saturday morning to finish the round.
“Right now the greens are getting a little bit worn. There’s just been a lot of traffic on them. I feel like in the morning, they will be perfect greens.”
World number one Tiger Woods, playing in the same group as Kuchar, reached seven under after six holes but began missing fairways and greens and posted three bogeys before stopping the bleeding with a birdie at 13 to stand five under par.
A stretch of four birdies in five holes from the sixth lifted Kuchar level into a tie for the lead and a tap-in birdie at the par-five 13th put him ahead.
Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, shot a second-round 66 after playing 12 holes Friday morning to complete an opening 67 as 63 golfers had to return early to finish a first round hit by more than six hours of delays due to thunderstorms.
The 28-year-old American had a feeling his score might not stand up given ideal scoring conditions on greens softened by rain storms that caused over six hours of delays on Thursday.
“A lot of guys are playing good golf and my guess is at the end of two rounds, I won’t be leading because there are a lot of birdie holes,” predicted Simpson.
Woodland closed with a furious charge, collecting birdies on four of his last five holes for a seven-under-par 64 to join Simpson on nine-under-par 133.
“I played great today,” said long-hitting Woodland. “I played great today, gave myself a lot of opportunities and I drove the ball phenomenally.”
Masters champion Adam Scott (66), 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler were all in the clubhouse with seven-under-par 135 totals.
U.S. Open winner Justin Rose of England birdied four-of-five holes before turning for the inward half and was seven-under through 14.
The crowded leaderboard had seven players bunched at six under par, including Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (through 14 holes) and American Jim Furyk (14).
Spaniard Sergio Garcia (66), England’s David Lynn (65) and Freddie Jacobson of Sweden (68) were in the clubhouse at 136.
Scott, like Simpson and many others, feasted on the front nine after beginning his second round at the 10th.
The Australian was five under for six holes after making the turn, capping the stretch with a 15-foot eagle putt at the par-five sixth.
Posting the lowest round of all was Bradley, who favored neither side in carding four birdies on each nine for his blistering, course-record 63.
“I really started to putt awesome on that second 18,” said 2011 PGA winner Bradley, who has had seven top 10s this season but is still looking for his first victory of 2013.
Bradley said generous pin positions might have contributed to Friday’s low scoring.
“They put some of the pins in some bowls (on the greens) and I know they want to get us around the course and finish up as early as possible, but this is not an easy golf course,” he said.
Woods admitted that his back, aggravated by sleeping on a soft hotel bed this week, was bothering him late in the round.
“I got off to a great start today and then lost it in the middle part of the round and made too many mistakes,” he said.
“I’m a little sore right now. I’m going to get treatment as soon as I get done here with you guys and be ready for tomorrow morning.”
British Open winner Phil Mickelson, a Barclays spokesman and member of Liberty National, looked in danger of missing the cut in the elite 123-man field when he stood one over par before joining the birdie parade to post a 69 for two-under 140.
The projected cut for the low 70 players plus ties was put at even par.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Steve Keating)