Stricker claims early halfway lead

Defending champion Steve Stricker reeled in four-shot overnight leader Hunter Mahan and grabbed the early second-round lead at The Barclays today.

Defending champion Steve Stricker reeled in four-shot overnight leader Hunter Mahan and grabbed the early second-round lead at The Barclays today.

Mahan had laid down his marker for the first of four FedEx Cup play-off tournaments by blasting a nine-under-par 62 opening round at the 7,319-yard at Ridgewood Country Club course in New Jersey, four shots better than second-placed Paul Casey of England.

Stricker started the day a further two shots adrift in a tie for eighth place in a group also including Adam Scott of Australia, Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Swedish veteran Jesper Parnevik.

Mahan was not due out for his second round until the afternoon, leaving the early starters with the opportunity to make inroads into his lead and Stricker, a fellow American Ryder Cup hopeful, was eager to give chase.

The American, who won the 2007 event at Westchester Country Club, holed a birdie at the par-three second hole, and then eagled the par-five third, chipping in from 67 yards form the fairway.

Stricker then closed to within two shots of Mahan with a birdie at the fifth hole to reach the turn in 31, four under for his round. He added another birdie at the 11th and drew level with the leader at the 13th with his fourth birdie of the day.

The outright lead became his with a birdie two at the 15th to move to 10 under on the way to a 64. Stricker said he expected lots of low scores from the later starters.

“The course is in such great shape,” Stricker said. “I think guys are going to learn how to play it every day, and I think the scores could even get a little bit lower, to tell you the truth.

“The weather is great. The course is in good shape, so I think guys will figure out a way to get it around and play it well.”

American Dudley Hart, who started the day tied for third at four under, also improved his position, with birdies at the fourth and eighth holes before a bogey five at the ninth kept him at five under. An up-and-down back nine with two birdies and two bogeys kept Hart there until a birdie at the 18th sent him to six under with a second-round 69, four behind Stricker.

Former US Open champion Cabrera will also start the weekend at six under following his 67 on Friday, the Argentine producing a bogey-free round of four under par. And Kevin Streelman, tied for third overnight on four under, began his second round brightly with birdies at the fourth and sixth to move to six under after seven holes.

Anthony Kim quickly got over an opening day he described as “one of the toughest rounds I’ve ever played” to move to six under after 14 holes before finishing at five under at the halfway mark.

Kim, a two-time winner in just his second year on the PGA Tour and an automatic qualifier for the US Ryder Cup team, had been stung by a bee and suffered an adverse reaction to medication during his opening round of 70. On Friday, Kim provided the bite with five birdies, his only blemish coming at the par-three eighth, his 17th of the day, which he bogeyed for a second-round 67.

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