NICHOLASVILLE — Troy Merritt and Billy Horschel seized on the tight window of favorable weather to post impressive rounds before the sky eventually turned nasty.
The weather stoppage gave Brittany Lincicome her desired Saturday tee time, though the LPGA Tour player must overcome a huge challenge to extend it by making the cut and history in a PGA Tour event.
Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.
The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome’s scheduled tee time.
Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA Tour player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.
Merritt meanwhile had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67. Horschel is two strokes back, following Thursday’s 65 with a 66.
Beating the elements added urgency to their goals of playing well.
“It’s always a little bit tough out there to keep a rhythm when you know you could be pulled off the course at any time,” Merritt said. “You just don’t know when we’re going to peg it again, but it’s nice to have two rounds under our belt, that’s for sure.”
Added Horschel, “I just wanted to get it done today.”
Richy Werenski and Tom Lovelady are tied for third at 12 under through 17 holes, with Werenski facing a 3-foot par putt on 18. Six-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan was among a trio of player at 10 under.
Hall of Famer Davis Love III posted his second consecutive 68 after previously shooting just three rounds in the 60s all year.
As those players rest and wait to see how the field comes together on Saturday — or if, considering more storms are forecast — Lincicome’s longshot quest to make the cut will draw the most attention.
Lincicome shot a double-bogey 5 on No. 18 before a triple-bogey 6 on No. 7 — which ended up being the opening round’s toughest with an average score of 3.235. That stumble spoiled an otherwise solid front-nine effort highlighted by a birdie on the 408-yard, par 4 third hole.
The winner of two LPGA Tour majors among eight victories overall blamed those struggles on her putter and vowed to improve. Lincicome acknowledged feeling some nerves on Thursday but said she was generally calm in her quest for history.
“Literally, two bad holes,” Lincicome said, “and if I can do better on those holes I’d be pretty good.”
Merritt continued setting a good example to follow despite a slightly softer course.
A day after tying a course record and posting the best opening round in the Barbasol Championship’s four-year history, he followed with another solid effort to remain atop the field. He strung together birdies on the first and second holes and again on the sixth and seventh.
The ninth hole resulted in the first of two bogey-5s on par-4 holes — Merritt also bogeyed the 13th — but he offset those with birdies on the 10th, 15th and 17th holes.
“I got off to a great start going birdie-birdie,” Merritt said. “I was hitting the driver well. The driver got just a little bit sideways toward the middle of the round and we hit a couple less fairways. But I hit a lot of greens again.”
Horschel, the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, was just as stout with a bogey-free round featuring six birdies. That included a 15-footer on the 181-yard, par-3 18th.
“I hit the ball a little bit better today,” Horschel said. “Putted really good. Overall, a really good day to back up a 7-under par round. I came out here and knew I needed to continue to have the pedal down and make birdies, and I did a really good job of that.”