Kuchar in front as Irene moves in

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Defending champion Matt Kuchar is in the lead at the hurricane-threatened Barclays heading into Saturday’s final round.

Defending champion Matt Kuchar is in the lead at the hurricane-threatened Barclays tournament heading into Saturday’s final round.

Kuchar shot a bogey-free, six-under-par 65 in Friday’s second round of this weather-shortened opening event of the FedExCup playoffs and his 36-hole, 14-under 128 total put him one shot clear of fellow-American Dustin Johnson (63) and a two-time Barclays winner and 2008 FedExCup champion Vijay Singh of Fiji (64).

Birdies came thick and fast on a warm, sticky day of relative calm before the storm in a tournament cut to 54 holes because of the approaching Hurricane Irene which is 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 anda fifth-place tie on 10-under 132 were three-time 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 on his second nine on Friday with three bogeys in a row

Frazar finished the round at 133 along with fellow-first-round front runner William McGirt (69) and Australian Adam Scott (67).

The decision to shorten the event was announced at midday on 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 the first 36 holes.

“They definitely made the right decision with 54 holes,” Kuchar told the media after his 65.

“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 moved into the lead past Frazar with a birdie at the par-four 18th for an opening 63.

Spurred on, Kuchar admitted, by the belief that the event would be shortened, and making the best of the clear skies and rain-softened greens, he manufacture three birdies on each loop of his flawless second round.

Johnson also made haste while the going was good, blitzing the front nine with a six-under 29 on the way to his 63

He said: “I would like to play all 72, but if we can get in 54, I think it will be a good week,” Johnson opined

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.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

128 Matt Kuchar 63 65

129 Dustin Johnson 66 63, Vijay Singh (Fij) 65 64

131 Jonathan Byrd 65 66

132 Padraig Harrington (Irl) 65 67, Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 66 66, Charley Hoffman 66 66, Justin Rose (Eng) 67 65,

133 Adam Scott (Aus) 66 67, Harrison Frazar 64 69, William McGirt 64 69

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