JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - Former U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson ran off six birdies in eight holes after making the second-round turn on Friday to grab a two-shot clubhouse lead at the weather-hit Barclays at Liberty National.
Simpson’s birdie spree, which included a chip in at the par-three fourth, was followed by a bogey at the last for a five-under-par 66 and a 36-hole total of nine-under 133.
The 2012 U.S. champion set a trend as birdies flew in sensational numbers on the scenic layout on the edge of New York harbor.
Tied in the clubhouse for second on seven-under 135, were Masters champion Adam Scott (66), former PGA winner Keegan Bradley (63) and Rickie Fowler (64), all three taking advantage of a course softened by thunderstorms that delayed play for over six hours on Thursday.
They were joined on seven under by late starters Tiger Woods, who bagged three birdies over his first five holes of the second round, Matt Kuchar and overnight leader Kevin Stadler, who balanced a birdie with a bogey over his first five holes.
Simpson was one of 63 players to return early Friday morning to finish his opening round, playing 12 holes to complete a 67.
The 28-year-old Simpson did not mind working overtime.
“It feels great to play good on a long day,” said Simpson, who is looking for his first victory of the season. “When you’re playing well, you feel like you could play 40 holes in a day.”
Scott started his second round from the 10th, playing in the group behind Simpson, and also scorched the front nine before registering a bogey at his last hole.
The Australian was five under par for six holes after making the turn, capping the stretch with a 15-foot eagle putt at the par-five sixth for his second eagle of the day. He also had an eagle at the par-five 13th in completing his opening round.
Fowler, who completed an even-par 71 for the first round, had six birdies, an eagle and one bogey for his 64.
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. “It’s very easy to short‑side yourself, and make a bogey.”
Englishman David Lynn also caught fire with seven birdies and an eagle, offset by three bogeys, for a 65 to join Sergio Garcia of Spain (66) and Sweden’s Freddie Jacobson (68) at 136 at the halfway mark of the opener of the FedExCup playoffs.
Simpson, who has four top-six finishes this season, was not overestimating his burst to the top of the leaderboard.
“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.
“I think a really low score is going to win this golf tournament.”
Friday’s late starters will not have enough light to complete the second round and will return Saturday morning to finish before the start of round three.
British Open winner Phil Mickelson, a Barclays spokesman and member of Liberty National, looked to be 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