Sun, Aug 28, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Kuchar grabs PGA lead as Hurricane Irene bears down

AFP, EDISON, New Jersey

Defending champion Matt Kuchar might have already won The Barclays just by leading the US$7.5 million US PGA event after 36 holes, but the American had some work to do yesterday anyway.

Kuchar fired a bogey-free six-under par 65 on Friday to stand on 14-under 128 with a one-stroke lead after what was originally scheduled to be the mid-point of the opening event of the season-ending US PGA playoffs.

However Hurricane Irene has literally been a game-changer this weekend as it approaches the New York metropolitan area after causing widespread damage and destruction in the Caribbean islands.

US PGA officials decided on Friday to reduce the event from 72 holes to 54 because of the potential threat of Irene, in part because tournament volunteers wanted to make certain there was time to safeguard their families and homes.

Players were set to begin the third round yesterday morning in hopes of having everyone finish 54 holes before the storm struck the area.

However, if the third round is not completed, scores will revert to how they stood after 36 holes.

That would give Kuchar the victory by a stroke over countryman Dustin Johnson and Fiji’s Vijay Singh.

In terms of advancing the top 100 players into next week’s playoff event near Boston, full points will be awarded to determine the qualifiers for the second round of the season-ending playoffs.

Kuchar finished his first round on Friday morning after a storm halted play on Thursday for three hours, making a par on 17 and a birdie on the 18th hole to finish a 63 before starting his second round.

Kuchar birdied the par-3 third, par-5 fifth and par-4 seventh and began a run of three birdies in four holes at the par-5 12th to maintain his lead heading into what suddenly has become the final round, provided it’s completed.

With last-group playing partners Johnson and Singh on his heels and eight others within five shots, yesterday was shaping up to be a battle before the storm.

Johnson fired a bogey-free 63 in the second round, opening and closing the front nine with back-to-back birdies plus two more on the back nine and two more back-to-back on the fourth and fifth holes.

Singh opened a round of 64 with back-to-back birides, followed a birdie at the 12th with his lone bogey on 13, but responded with birdies on the next three holes and another on the 18th to put himself in the hunt for his first title since the 2008 Deutsche Bank Championship, a week after he won the Barclays.

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