Barclays cut to 54 holes, with champ crowned Saturday, due to hurricane

matt kuchar
Getty Images
Matt Kuchar took the lead early Friday at the Barclays, which hopes to complete three rounds by late Saturday before the weather turns too bad.
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Friday, August 26, 2011 | 12:59 p.m.

The PGA Tour on Friday reduced its first playoff event to 54 holes because of the rain and potential damage expected from Hurricane Irene.

New Jersey was under a hurricane warning, and officials feared up to 10 inches of rain could fall on Sunday. That would make it impossible for The Barclays to be a 72-hole tournament, and the aftermath of the storm would keep Plainfield Country Club from being ready even into early next week.

Tournament Director Peter Mele also said the volunteers needed to be home to make plans for their families.

"It kind of makes you want to cry because of all the effort that went in, and all of the energy that surrounded this event going into the week, which is going to be the best Barclays we have ever had," Mele said.

Slugger White, the tour's vice president of competition, said the plan was finish 36 holes Friday and start the third round first thing Saturday morning, with hopes of getting in a 54-hole event before the rain arrives.

If they can't finish Saturday, he said it would revert to a 36-hole tournament. Points would be distributed as if it were a full event, meaning the top 100 players after The Barclays would advance to the second playoff event next week outside Boston.

Left unclear was whether a 36-hole tournament -- if that were the case -- would count as an official win. Six years ago, Adam Scott won the Nissan Open at Riviera in a playoff after rain reduced the tournament to 36 holes. Scott was awarded the prize money, but it did not count toward the money list, and he received only 75 percent of the world ranking points.

"In the past it has not been an official win," White said. "But this is a little different situation."

What mattered more at this FedExCup playoff event was advancing to Boston. A short tournament figured to work in the favor of someone like Padraig Harrington and Will McGirt, the last two players of the 125 who qualified for the playoffs. They were off to a good start at The Barclays, and had only one more round to go to get into the top 100.

It was another blow to The Barclays, one of golf's biggest sponsors which is enduring a wet streak. Its Singapore Open last fall did not finish until Monday because of rain. Another event it sponsors, the Scottish Open, was reduced to 54 holes in July because of rain.

White said workers would start taking down the electronic scoreboards Friday afternoon.

The Barclays was a sellout at Plainfield. Mele said only Saturday tickets would be honored for the third round. He said those who had Sunday tickets would be able to use them next year, when the tournament moves to Bethpage Black.

This is the second straight year a hurricane has been the focus at a playoff event. Hurricane Earl threatened the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston last season, although it never developed.

"I think you never know with hurricanes. They are fickle as we all know," Mele said. "Unfortunately, this one wasn't."

Earlier Friday, Matt Kuchar returned to beautiful sunshine and a birdie to take a one-shot lead.

Kuchar, who won the opening FedExCup playoff event last year on a different course, was among 51 players who did not finish the rain-delayed first round. He drove into a greenside bunker on the reachable par-4 18th, blasted out to 3 feet and rapped in his birdie putt for an 8-under 63.

That gave him a one-shot lead over Harrison Frazar and William McGirt, who also had to finish his round in the morning.

McGirt had made seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch when play was halted by darkness Thursday night. The birdies disappeared when he got back to Plainfield, and he bogeyed the 17th before hitting just short of the green on 18 for an easy birdie. Frazar shot his 64 Thursday.

Players had only a half-hour before they headed back out to start the second round.

Because of the rain -- nearly a three-hour delay Thursday, after some 10 inches of rain over the previous two weeks -- Plainfield was soft and ripe for good scoring. Only 44 players failed to break par in the first round, and the field average was 69.5.

Kuchar won The Barclays last year at Ridgewood.

"It's great being defending champion and coming out with a nice start, 8 under, with some good playing," he said before heading out for his second round. "The conditions were there. I think there are going to be a lot of low scores over the next couple of days."

Ernie Els, who was at No. 118, opened with a 68. Els is among five players who have reached the FedExCup finale at the Tour Championship every year since this format began in 2007.

Phil Mickelson had a disappointing end to his round of 67, even though he made birdie. The tees are moved up this week on the 18th hole, making it play about 285 yards up the hill with a slight bend to the left. Mickelson hammered a tee shot that settled about 6 feet away, but he missed the putt and settled for a birdie.