Edison, New Jersey: Defending champion Matt Kuchar shot a flawless six-under-par 65 on Friday to carry a one-stroke lead into Saturday`s final round at The Barclays, the weather-shortened opening event of the FedExCup playoffs.
Kuchar`s 36-hole total of 128 gave him a one-shot lead over fellow-American Dustin Johnson (63) and twice former Barclays winner and 2008 FedExCup champion Vijay Singh of Fiji (64).
Birdies were flying on a warm, muggy day that provided some calm before the storm at the tournament, which was cut to 54 holes because of Hurricane Irene, expected to bring high winds and rain to the area late on Saturday.
Alone in fourth place at 131, three shots off the pace, was American Jonathan Byrd, who birdied his last hole for a 66.
Tied for fifth on 10-under 132 were three-times major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland (67), Briton Justin Rose (65), Australian Aaron Baddeley (66) and American Charley Hoffman (66).
Harrison Frazar, the overnight leader in the clubhouse after an opening 64, was 11-under before stumbling through a second nine Friday that included three straight bogeys.
Frazar finished the round at 133 along with fellow-American William McGirt (69) and Australian Adam Scott (67).
The decision to shorten the event was announced midday Friday and tournament director Slugger White said that if the 72 players who qualified for the third round were not able to complete 18 holes, then the winner and points earnings toward the FedExCup would be based on 36 holes.
"They definitely made the right decision with 54 holes," said Kuchar. "The forecast just looks terrible. I think all of us are going to be excited to wrap this thing up and get out of here as quickly and safely as we can."
Kuchar, who won last year`s FedExCup opener at Ridgewood Country Club, had to return early Friday to complete his weather-shortened first round and pushed into the lead past Frazar with a birdie at the par-four 18th for 63.
Fueled by a sense of urgency over the possibility the event could be shortened, Kuchar coolly carded three birdies on each side as he turned right around to play his second round.
Kuchar was not the only player to take advantage of sunny skies and rain-softened greens as big-hitting Johnson tore up the front nine in six-under 29.
"I would like to play all 72, but if we can get in 54, I think it will be a good week," Johnson said about the shortened tournament.
The top 100 in FedExCup points standings after The Barclays qualify for next week`s Deutsche Bank Championship. The leading 70 on the list after that advance to the BMW Championship, with the top 30 reaching the Tour Championship where the final points leader will pocket a $10 million bonus.