US in charge at storm-hit Barclays

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Defending champion Matt Kuchar, Harrison Frazar and William McGirt lead The Barclay’s after a storm-hit first day.

The American trio of defending champion Matt Kuchar, Harrison Frazar and William McGirt lead The Barclay’s after a storm-hit, unfinished first round on Thursday.

Frazar shot first-day 7-under 64 to grab the early clubhouse lead in the opening tournament of the four-event FedEx Cup play-offs, but Kuchar, still with two holes to play, and McGirt, who had only played 11 holes, were tied with him at 7-under when bad light ended a round delayed for more than three hours by rain and electrical storms.

Along with Kuchar and McGirt, the delay at the Plainfield Country Club in Edison, New Jersey, left a total of 51 players stranded on the course by fading light at the end of the day and what it all meant was that the leadership story might be looking different when the first round is completed early on Friday morning.

This especially as the greens are likely to be soft and vulnerable to target golf.

In the meantime the US trio led by one from Fiji veteran Vijay Singh and American young gun Jonathan Byrd, who both shots 65s, and little known Chris Stroud who was tied with them at 6-under after 13 holes.

The in-form Adam Scott of Australia was lurking two shots off the pace after shooting a 5-under 66 along with Charley Hoffman and fellow-American Ryan Palmer.

Padraig Harrington, after 11 holes and Justin Rose, after 16, were leading the European charge at 4-under in a log-jam of 16 players that included up-and-coming Australia Jason Day and young American hot-shot Nick Watney, who topped the FedEx Cup standings coming into the event.

Frazar took himself into the lead with four birdies on the front nine and three on the back of his bogey-free round while unheralded McGirt had birdied seven of eight holes in the 11 he had played and last year’s winner Kuchar had birdied six of the last seven of the 16 he had played before darkness forced them off the course.

Kuchar won The Barclays last year when it was played at Ridgewood, and McGirt was the last player to qualify for the FedExCup at number 125 on the points list last week.

Afternoon starters began their rounds at Plainfield late due to a three-hour, 15-minute suspension due to lightning.

And officials are worried about further delays from the storms being forecast for this weekend as Hurricane Irene approaches the East Coast of the USA.

Meanwhile, players in the elite field in a series that pays a bonus of $10 million to the overall points winner, took advantage of the wet conditions and soft greens with 37 of the 60 morning starters breaking par under lift-clean-and-place provisions.

“The course is very soft,” said Frazar, 40, who notched his first PGA Tour win earlier this year at the St Jude’s Classic.

“The fairways are plugging. There was mud on the balls. The shots into the greens are just hitting and just stopping where they are.”

Said Singh, the 2008 FedExCup champion who overcame a double-bogey at the par-three third hole by posting eight birdies: “It wasn’t easy out there. Swirling wind and the rain delay made sure of that.”

Scott, who roared up the leaderboard with a first-nine 31 that featured just one par along with five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys and then parred his way home after the weather delay, said: “It’s a shame if we get some bad weather, because it would have been nice to see this golf course play firm.”

With plans being put in place for possible evacuations along the New Jersey and New York coastlines, tournament director Slugger White said various scenarios were being discussed.

White said shortening the tournament to 54 holes could be considered along with extending the tournament to Monday or Tuesday, depending on the time and the severity of the storms.

“If we get another five or seven inches of rain here, we’re probably dead in the water,” he said.

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

-7 Harrison Frazar (USA) 64
-7 Matt Kuchar (USA) after 16 holes
-7 William McGirt (USA) after 11 holes
-6 Vijay Singh (Fiji) 65
-6 Jonathan Byrd (USA) 65
-6 Chris Stroud (USA) after 13 holes
-5 Charley Hoffman (USA) 66
-5 Ryan Palmer (USA) 66
-5 Adam Scott (Aus) 66
-5 DA Points USA) after 14 holes

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