Defending champion Steve Stricker reeled in overnight leader Hunter Mahan and grabbed the second-round lead at The Barclays today as world number three Padraig Harrington missed the cut.
Mahan had laid down his marker for the first of four FedEx Cup play-off tournaments by blasting a nine-under-par opening round at the 7,319-yard 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 but proved eager for the 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 from 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 before Mahan had even begun his round.
The low scoring has been a surprise given the pre-tournament predictions of tight fairways, punitive rough and small greens.
“It is a good course. You’ve got to do a lot of good things,” Stricker said.
“The greens are tough. But I didn’t think the scoring was going to be this low. And when Hunter goes out and shoots that nine-under round yesterday, it shows you that it is capable and it is out there.”
Mahan failed to build on his dominant position as conditions toughened in the afternoon and fell to seven under, two shots adrift with a second-round 73.
“Putts,” said Mahan when asked the difference between his two rounds, although he also acknowledged the condition of the course at different times of the day.
“No question,” he added. “Especially Thursday morning to Friday afternoon, it’s a different golf course. The greens are definitely bouncy and firmer and definitely played tougher.”
American Dudley Hart and Angel Cabrera of Argentina finished their second rounds on six under for the tournament after rounds of 69 and 67 respectively while Kenny Perry, FedEx Cup points leader in Tiger Woods’ absence, joined them, also with a 67.
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.
Today, 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.
Sergio Garcia also shot a 67 to send him to five under at the halfway stage. Starting on the 10th tee, the US PGA Championship runner-up bounced back from a bogey at his second hole with birdies at the third, fourth, eighth and ninth to reach the turn in 33, four under for the tournament.
He too bogeyed his 10th hole but moved to five under with birdies on his 13th and 16th holes.
Also on five under was Kevin Streelman, who had opened at four under.
Casey was disappointed to finish bogey, bogey having started at the 10th tee, leaving him back where he started at five under and ruing a tough afternoon spent on drying, quickening greens.
“The golf course, certainly in the last nine holes, I felt was very crispy, greens especially,” Casey said.
“The sixth green was toasty. I mean, it’s glazed and very difficult to get the ball rolling consistently on those greens.
“But it’s the same for everybody. I found the golf course yesterday morning was perfect and Steve Stricker has obviously found the same sort of set-up.
“The afternoon is a different kettle of fish. It’s tricky.”
It was certainly tricky for Open and US PGA Championship winner Harrington, who at three over par and after a second round of 73 comprising four birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey, missed the cut, which fell at two over – his first missed weekend since The Players Championship in May.