Kuchar didn’t tee off until Friday afternoon at Liberty National and knew he had no chance to finish. He could barely see his ball cross the water and set up a two-putt birdie on the 13th hole that gave him the outright lead, and there was enough light coming from lower Manhattan across the Hudson River to hit his tee shot on the 14th.
The horn sounded, and by then, he was ready to go home.
Kuchar was at 10-under par with five holes remaining and had to return this morning to hold his one-shot lead over Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland, who both finished the second round in the rain-delayed tournament.
Simpson had to play 29 holes — 11 holes to finish his first round in the morning, followed by his second round — and he was ready to go more. He ran off six birdies over an eight-hole stretch and had a 5-under 66.
“It’s much nicer when you’re playing well to keep playing. And when you’re playing well, you feel like you could play 40 holes in a day,” Simpson said. “My main goal ... I just wanted to get done (Friday). It just felt nice to putt out on 9, knowing that I’ve got tonight to sleep and catch up on rest.”
Woodland was one of the last players to finish at twilight Friday, and he finished strong. Woodland, back on track after a win at the Reno-Tahoe Open three weeks ago, birdied four of his last five holes for a 64 to join Simpson in the clubhouse at 9-under 133.
“I feel ecstatic right now to be done,” Woodland said. “It was a close call coming down the stretch if we would be able to finish. Luckily, I played great today, gave myself a lot of opportunities, and I drove the ball phenomenally and rolled some putts in, especially late.”
As for Tiger Woods, he couldn’t get off the course fast enough.
Woods challenged the target set by Simpson with three birdies in five holes — he was two shots behind — and he had a pair of par 5s in front of him. He failed to make birdie on either of the par 5s, and made three bogeys out of the bunker through the 12th hole to fall off the pace. He made birdie on the 13th, the last hole he completed, but was still five shots behind Kuchar, who was in his group.
“I got off to a great start (Friday) and then lost it the middle part of the round and made too many mistakes,” Woods said.
He also said his back remained sore from what he said earlier in the week was due to a soft bed in his hotel that led to stiffness in his neck and bad. He said the pain increased throughout the round and when asked if a specific shot made it hurt, he replied, “Every one.”
“I’m going to get treatment right now ... and be ready for (this) morning,” Woods said.
It was the second straight year at The Barclays he has said a soft hotel bed caused stiffness in his back. Last year, it caused him trouble in the third round.
Rory McIlroy showed more signs of turning his game around. After three double bogeys Thursday, he limited the mistakes with some nifty par saves and was at 5 under with two holes remaining, starting with a shot from the 17th fairway after a big tee shot.
Kuchar stopped with his tee shot just short of the green on the par-3 14th, and he had no inclination to finish.
“I feel like in the morning, they will be perfect greens,” he said. “A situation where I’m on 18 and can pretty much have a proper night’s sleep and not have to worry about going out, I’ll finish on 18. But in this situation ... it was amazing, we were down on the last hole, 13, kind of a little bit down the hole and it was dark. I wasn’t sure we were going to tee off on 14. Coming out over the water, it brightened up by a good margin. It’s actually a beautiful skyline.
“I think when the sun sets coming off, it was a nice little place to be this time of night.”
It looked even better atop the leaderboard, though there’s still a long way to go — and plenty of stars right behind him.
Keegan Bradley set the tournament course record with a 63 and was at 7-under 135, along with Rickie Fowler (64) and Adam Scott, who was tied for the lead at one point until a lazy finish for a 66.
Phil Mickelson, trying to retool his game after his British Open win, had a 69 and was seven shots behind the clubhouse lead.
The last time The Barclays was at Liberty National, Heath Slocum won at 9-under 275. Since then, some of the landing areas were widened and the slopes on the greens were softened. Plus, the course was very little rough this year. And the soft conditions from the rain Thursday is making it easier to make birdies.
For some players, their year was over.
Ben Crane, after opening with a 67, had to withdraw with a lower back injury after playing just four holes of the second round. At No. 125 in the FedEx Cup, he won’t be among the 100 players advancing to the second playoff event next week outside Boston.
Lucas Glover withdrew with a hand injury, ending his season.
The cut would not be made until Saturday morning, and Erik Compton needed two more rounds to try to qualify for the next tournament. He did his part, a birdie-birdie finish to get back to even-par 142. That was right on the line for making the cut.