JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland battled to a tie for the lead at breezy Liberty National and will be paired for a final-round Sunday duel at The Barclays, the opening event of the FedExCup playoffs.
Kuchar carded a one-under 70, while fellow-American Woodland shot a 68 to finish Saturday’s third round locked at 12-under-par 131.
World number six Kuchar, who has two wins this season, was paired with big-hitting Woodland and came away impressed.
“Man, that guy can play some golf,” said Kuchar, who led by two strokes after finishing a second round of 65 early Saturday morning. “Gary was really impressive.”
Said Woodland, who ran off four birdies in a row at one point, “I drove the ball beautifully all day, and finally I got some putts to go in.”
Unheralded Kevin Chappell fired a sensational, course record 62 to leap up the leaderboard and stand one stroke behind his compatriots in pursuit of his first title on the PGA Tour.
A Kuchar-Woodland duel, however, is far from assured with world number one Tiger Woods lurking just four shots off the pace tied for fourth with England’s David Lynn.
Woods and Lynn both returned two-under-par 69s on the waterside course under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
Woods, among 40 players who returned early Saturday morning to complete a second round 69 after play was suspended due to darkness in the weather-hit event, slipped from seven-under with a pair of bogeys but battled back with three late birdies to reach eight-under 205.
“Just hung in there and that was a grind,” said world number one Woods, who has been bothered by a sore back after a poor night’s sleep on a soft hotel bed this week.
Seven players were tied at 206, including U.S. Open champion Justin Rose of England (70), Americans Bubba Watson (68), Rickie Fowler (71), Jim Furyk (70), Kevin Streelman (68) and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth (68), and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt (70).
Kuchar, who was grouped with Woods in the resumption of their second round, claimed a two-shot lead over Woodland and 2012 U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson at the 36-hole mark.
Woodland, playing in a threesome with Kuchar and Simpson, used a string of four successive birdies from the sixth to vault into a lead that grew to three strokes before bogeys at 11 and 12 and birdies by Kuchar at 13 and 14 created a tie.
The 29-year-old Woodland, who earlier this month won the Reno-Tahoe Open for his first PGA title, went ahead again with a birdie at 16 but bogeyed 17 after his tee shot plugged under the lip of a fairway bunker and he had to hit out sideways.
Simpson, meanwhile, slumped into a tie for 13th at six-under 207 after registering a 74.
In contrast to Simpson, Chappell soared into contention.
After starting his round at the 10th hole, 27-year-old Chappell caught fire from the 16th, his seventh hole of the day.
The little-known American made eight birdies in an 11-hole stretch from there, including four in a row from the third hole and just missed a final birdie opportunity at his last hole.
“Here, in the wind...if you would have told me someone was going to shoot 62 today, I would probably have laughed at you,” Chappell told reporters after his spectacular round.
The top 125 players on the FedExCup list qualified for The Barclays and the leading 100 players on the points list will advance to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.
The winner of the playoffs finale, the 30-man Tour Championship, will receive a bonus prize of $10 million.
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Gene Cherry