Matt Kuchar carded eight birdies — including three on Saturday morning in the conclusion of the second round at the Barclays — en route to a 5-under 66 that lifted him to a two-shot lead over Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson.
Here are 5 Things to know about second-round play at Liberty National:
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1. KUCHAR’S LEAD WITH A VIEW: So, you have a 28-foot birdie try to try and go 6 under for the round, 11 under for the tournament, but you reject the chance to ride the momentum?
What gives, Matt Kuchar? Not enough light, given that it was nearly 7:50 p.m.?
“Right now the greens are getting a little bit worn,” said Kuchar, who left Liberty National on the 14th green, and at 10 under in possession of a one-stroke lead. But truth be told, Kuchar concedes being at the most picturesque corner of the golf course was a nice way to end the day.
Sun setting to his right, Manhattan sparkling to his left.
“It’s amazing,” said Kuchar, who was paired with Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker. “We were down on the last hole (the tee box at the par-5 13th) and it was dark. I wasn’t sure we were going to tee off (on 14). But coming out on the water (14th tee box) it brightened up by a good margin.
“The city is an absolutely beautiful skyline. The pink, the sunset reflection on the buildings. It was kind of a nice place to be this time of night.”
He picked up where he left off on Saturday morning, picking up birdie on No. 14 and adding two more birdies and his first two bogeys of the round to card a 5-under 65 and take a two-shot lead over Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland into the third round.
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2. BRADLEY BREAKS RECORD: Starting the playoffs 10th in points, Keegan Bradley made noise in a hurry by establishing a new course record at Liberty National with a 63.
“I really started to putt awesome on that second 18,” Bradley said. “I hit a ball out‑of‑bounds on the last hole this morning, and it was just brutal and decided that I was going to prove to myself that that wasn’t how I’m going to end this tournament. So I decided to go out and just let it go, and I really seemed to play well on that second 18.”
Bradley, who bogeyed No. 18 to finish off a first-round 72 in the morning, made eight birdies in the afternoon – four on each nine.
“This morning was very difficult, I mean, it was blowing,” Bradley said. “I just was uncomfortable the whole round. And then this afternoon I really decided to just let it go and it worked out.”
But Bradley should know the weather. He played collegiately at St. John’s and swing coach Jim McLean has a practice facility at Liberty National.
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3. TIGER’S HOT, THEN COLD: Tiger Woods got off to a hot start Friday at The Barclays, but as daylight ran out at Liberty National, so apparently did Woods’ sharp play.
Teeing off late with Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker, Woods birdied three of his first five holes. But he played his next seven holes in 2 over before play was called for the day with Woods facing a 12-footer for birdie at the par-3 14th.
Woods did make four birdies, including at the par-5 13th, to enter Saturday at 5 under, 1 under through 13 holes on his second round. But his ballstriking was a bit off. He hit just four fairways and five greens, and appeared to wince after a few shots, signaling that possibly his sore back was giving him trouble.
Woods seemed fine on Saturday morning, posting four pars and a birdie to close out a 2-under 69 that left him at 6 under, T-8 and five shots back of Kuchar.
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4. SIMPSON SURGES: 2011 FedEx Cup runner-up Webb Simpson is taking aim at another strong playoff run, topping his first-round 67 with a second-round 66. He moved to 10 under thanks to a flurry of six birdies after making the turn, and had a chance to cap the first two rounds with a 29 – but hit it into the water at No. 9 to end his day as he began it, with a bogey.
“It was a fun nine; to make six birdies in eight holes was great,” Simpson told the Tour. “Putts were going in. I just made a poor swing on nine.”
Simpson started the tournament 17th in points, on the strength of a consistent season with four top-10 finishes and 17 cuts made in 21 starts. The Wake Forest product pushed the RBC Heritage to a playoff, won by Graeme McDowell.
At Liberty National this week, Simpson has birdied Nos. 1, 6 and 8 during both his rounds.
Simpson said he picked up some momentum thanks to a birdie at No. 18 to end his rain-delayed first round.
“I think that I have to keep playing well and keep making birdies, and I think a really low score is going to win this golf tournament,” he said. “
It’s a vastly different week aready for Simpson, who missed the cut in last year’s Barclays on his way to finishing 16th in the Cup. In 2011, when he finished second in the Cup, Simpson finished T-10 at The Barclays.
And in 2009, the last time The Barclays came to Liberty National? Well, Simpson (en route to finishing 85th in the Cup) was the 36-hole leader.
“I was thinking about it when I signed my card, I guess last time I shot one shot worse, but was in the lead,” he said. Thanks to Thursday’s weather, though, that has yet to be determined.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Rory McIlroy birdied No. 18 and is at 6 under for the tournament. . . . Phil Mickelson shot 69 to give himself some breathing room inside the projected cut of even par, but said he didn’t have his top form. “I’m hitting a lot more good shots and fewer bad shots, but I’m still not quite dialed in and the putter has been just a little bit off, the speed, especially.” . . . Rickie Fowler is among the T-4 group at 7 under; he says he’s considering taking on a new swing coach, his first since 2011, but first is focusing on a better playoff run this year. . . . A pair of reigning major champions are in contention, with Adam Scott posting a 66 to get to 7 under, while Justin Rose finished his round on Saturday morning and posted a 3-under 68 for the second consecutive day. . . . Ben Crane – the self-dubbed “Bubble Boy” of the 2013 FedEx Cup – and Lucas Glover withdrew with injuries to their back and wrist, respectively, during today’s second round. Crane was 2 under, Glover even par.
– Brentley Romine and Bill Zimmerman contributed