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Keegan Bradley, with 63, challenges at Barclays

Keegan Bradley watches his tee shot on the

Keegan Bradley watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during a continuation of the first round of The Barclays at Liberty National Golf Club. (Aug. 23, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

JERSEY CITY - The words "New York" have magic for PGA Tour golfers, who are energized by the sight of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty while they are playing in The Barclays at Liberty National.

For Keegan Bradley, the key to excelling in the tournament that is something of a homecoming is represented by two other magic words: "Room service."

Bradley is a New Englander, but he made a lifetime's worth of friends when he played for St. John's. That has been a mixed blessing for him in previous trips to the FedEx Cup playoff opener: He has been distracted and probably over-amped. "This week, I've really kind of secluded myself," he said.

On Friday, it was his play that put him in a class by himself. He shot a course-record 8-under-par 63 to reach 7 under for the tournament, two shots behind clubhouse leader Webb Simpson, who had a second-round 66. Matt Kuchar was 10 under par through 13 holes of his second round before darkness halted play.

Tiger Woods was headed for a round like Bradley's as he birdied three of his first five holes. But he stumbled with bogeys and was at 5 under through 13.

"This has always been a tournament that I've really wanted to play well at, and this is the first time I've even remotely come close to shooting under par. So it's nice," Bradley said.

Liberty National is a fairly new venue, so a course record on it does not carry a ton of historical heft. Nor was it the first time he gained a record. "I have a few, but this is a really cool one to have. This golf course is unbelievable. Jim McLean, my teacher, has a golf school here. It's really, really awesome," Bradley said after a long day.

Like many other players in the field, he did not get to finish his round on a rain-soaked Thursday, so he had to finish his first round and then play another full 18. He loved it because the double bogey at the end of the first round in the morning gave him momentum. "I was going to prove to myself that that wasn't how I'm going to end this tournament," he said.

He made eight birdies and no bogeys to put him right in the hunt at an event that has haunted him. "My rookie year, I had just won the PGA. I had no chance. Last year, it was at Bethpage . . . It's always a tough week," he said.

Bradley was seething at himself after missing the cut at the 2012 Barclays on the Black Course -- the layout that he says is his favorite in the world, the one on which his Red Storm team often practiced.

This year, he got his week off to a convivial start Sunday by playing a practice round on another of his favorite courses, Wheatley Hills in East Williston. He used to work in the bag room there but was allowed to play more than he worked.

"It's different now," he said. "I can't get much work done, but I do enjoy going out and seeing all the members. They're super-good to me."

This has the potential to be a special week for him, and for many players who are commuting by ferry from Manhattan.

Simpson and his wife are staying in New Jersey, where there is day care for their two children. "But it's great," he said. "It's unlike anything we play year-round. It's fun seeing the Statue of Liberty on the 14th hole."

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