Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 64 in perfect morning conditions Friday to take a three-stroke lead over Hunter Mahan in the Barclays, the first event in the U.S. PGA Tour's playoffs.
The 41-year-old Stricker, 21st in the FedEx Cup standings, had a 10-under 132 total on the tree-lined A.W. Tillinghast layout at the Ridgewood Country Club, the tournament site for the first time after 41 seasons at the Westchester Country Club about 33 kilometers (20 miles) to the east.
He hasn't made a bogey since dropping strokes on the first two holes Thursday, playing his last 23 holes in 11 under.
"I think the course is in such good shape, that's why the scoring is good," Stricker said. "I think as we get further along, the scoring could get a little bit better just because guys will find a way to play it, understand it a little bit more and feel a little bit more comfortable with what they are doing out there."
Mahan, 31st in the FedEx Cup standings, followed his opening 62 with a 73.
"I probably hit it better than I did yesterday, but nothing went in," Mahan said.
Kenny Perry, effectively the FedEx Cup leader with top-ranked Tiger Woods sidelined by a knee injury, shot a 67 to join Angel Cabrera (67) and Dudley Hart (69) in third at 6 under.
"I'm ecstatic," Perry said. "I'm in a good position."
Anthony Kim (67), Sergio Garcia (67), Kevin Streelman (70), Charley Hoffman (70) and Paul Casey (71) were 5 under.
"I definitely played a lot better," Kim said. "It's a lot more fun when you're not hitting out of the trees and chipping out sideways."
Phil Mickelson was eight strokes back at 2 under after a 70.
"A lot of birdies and a lot of bogeys," Mickelson said. "I need to go out (Saturday) and have a good day and shoot 6 or 7 under."
Padraig Harrington had rounds of 72 and 73 to miss the cut by two strokes.
"I'm tired," the British Open and U.S. PGA Championship winner said. "I tried hard, but struggled to focus this afternoon. It really is a knockdown after the last couple of weeks."
Stricker eagled the par-5 third hole, hitting a 60-degree wedge shot from about 70 yards that spun back into the hole, and was 4 under after five holes. He hit a 5-iron to 20 feet on the par-4 11th to set up a birdie, and made a 6-footer on the par-5 13th to tie Mahan for the lead at 9 under. The four-time tour winner pulled ahead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 15th and closed with three pars.
Stricker hit nine of 14 fairways, 14 greens in regulation and needed only 25 putts on the small greens.
"They were perfect and they rolled great," Stricker said. "They were smooth. They still held fairly well, but you could tell that they are going to get firm."
After finishing ninth in the points race for the eight automatic positions on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Stricker is trying to earn a spot at Valhalla next month as one of Paul Azinger's four captain's picks.
"I've got two tournaments going on within one. That's basically what I feel like," Stricker said. "I'm trying like heck to keep it out of my mind, but it's nearly impossible. I feel a little more pressure."
Garcia has thrived on old-school courses, twice winning at Westchester and claiming titles at Colonial and Congressional.
"It's a wonderful golf course," Garcia said. "You've got to drive the ball well and shape it both ways and make sure that your short game is in shape, because it's quite difficult around the greens."