Kuchar on top as Colonial suspended

Matt Kuchar got off to a tremendous start in his second round at the Colonial. There was the eagle putt that stopped just short on his first hole and the approach at No. 2 that actually went in before ricocheting out of the cup.

There were four birdies in his first seven holes Friday, and he got the lead with a 6-foot birdie putt at the 457-yard 14th hole.

But he’ll have to wait until Saturday morning to finish the second round.

Kuchar was among 54 players still on the course when play was suspended Friday night at Hogan’s Alley because of an impending storm system. There had already been an earlier delay of more than two hours because of lightning.

In what was a bogey-free round so far, Kuchar was 10 under for the tournament with his ball on the 16th green when the horn sounded, ending play at 6:38 p.m. He was a stroke ahead of Graham DeLaet, the Canadian who shot a 67 in a morning round completed without interruption and was at 9-under 131.

Kuchar matched DeLaet for the lead after that early birdie barrage. Kuchar had a 15-foot eagle chance at No. 1 that came up just short then his approach at No. 2 wound up inside 3 feet of the cup.

”The front nine, I really got it going,” said Kuchar, who shot 5-under 65 Thursday. ”I jarred a shot on 2 that landed in the hole and came back out. … I really got off to a great start. And then I kept playing some good golf.”

Ranked No. 13 in the world – the highest in the field – Kuchar took the lead with a 6-foot-birdie putt at the 457-yard 14th, and recovered from a drive into a fairway bunker on the 15th for a par while clouds darkened and thunder could be heard in the distance.

Soon after Kuchar, the WGC-Accenture Match Play winner in February, teed off at the par-3 16th, and his ball landed about 40 feet from the cup, the round was suspended. It was raining heavily about 30 minutes later.

First-round leader Ryan Palmer, the Colonial member who had an opening 62, was still at 8 under after an up-and-down 12 holes Friday that he managed to play at even par.

Steve Flesch (64), 19-year-old Jordan Spieth (67) from Dallas and Josh Teater (67) finished at 8 under.

Flesch’s 64 matched the best completed round of the day and, more importantly, will end his string of 16 missed cuts on the PGA Tour since October 2011.

The 2004 Colonial champion missed the cut in all 12 of his PGA Tour starts last year before right shoulder surgery in August, and is playing only his third tour event this year. The 45-year-old Flesch is playing on a non-exempt major medical extension and has to make $647,510 between this weekend and his next three events to prolong that medical extension.

”I’m very comfortable here and just glad to actually play on the weekend now,” Flesch said. ”I was actually cruising, then I got that rain delay and I kind of lost all of my rhythm.”

He had a 33-foot birdie at the difficult par-4 fifth hole, his 14th of the day, just before the delay. The lefty finished with four consecutive pars.

Palmer hit his opening drive way right at No. 1, a par 5 that is generally among Colonial’s easiest holes, and started with a par. The former Texas A&M golfer with three PGA Tour wins sank an 11-foot birdie putt at No. 3, but hit his drive at No. 5 landed behind a tree and he took a drop in the rough, leading a double bogey. He followed with a bogey at No. 6 after driving into a fairway bunker.

”It wasn’t that bad,” Palmer said. ”When you shoot 8 under, it’s hard to come back sometimes. … I was calm all day, confident.”

In his last three holes before the suspension of play, Palmer made an 8-foot birdie at No. 10 and rolled in a 27-footer at No. 12. He never teed off at the par-3 13th.

DeLaet was 10 under after his third consecutive birdie, a 6-footer at the 373-yard second hole that was his shortest putt in that stretch. Then he arrived at Colonial’s famed ”horrible horseshoe” as the Nos. 3-5 holes are known because of their layout and the difficulty of the stretch – a 239-yard par 3 sandwiched by the two longest par 4s on the course. But he finished with consecutive birdies after almost making a 31-footer at No. 7.

As DeLaet so aptly put it, ”Kind of got myself right back in it.”