With an orange ribbon on his hat and nine birdies on his card, Matt Kuchar pulled within a shot of the lead Saturday in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Not that he needed a reminder, but a message posted on the scoring table spoke to the emotions involved in this tournament.
Players were offered a chance to donate to a trust fund for the 4-year-old daughter of Lance Bennett, his caddie. Bennett’s wife, Angela, died of a seizure Wednesday. Kuchar decided to play to raise awareness and get the tour involved in helping the family.
His performance certainly helped.
Ryan Palmer overcame a rocky start for an even-par 71. Jason Day struggled at the end for a 68. They were tied for the lead on the TPC Boston going into the third round of a FedEx Cup playoff event that ends on Labor Day.
Kuchar was a shot behind after a 66 that featured six consecutive birdies around the turn.
“You never know how things will work out in the game of golf,” Kuchar said. “But it felt like there’s some fate working, as well. The funeral is coming up and some things that will be difficult. But right now, I feel like there’s some inspiration and some fate working.”
On his bag is Brian Reed, a longtime friend who introduced Kuchar to Bennett several years ago.
Kuchar was overcome by emotion Friday when he saw caddies — and even some players — wearing a black hat with the orange ribbon in honor of Bennett’s wife. There were times he had a hard time taking the club back.
Saturday was easier, which he attributes to the natural progression of grief.
“Still felt like Angela was on my mind almost every hole, every shot,” Kuchar said.
The next few days might not be easy for anyone. The TPC Boston has a history of yielding low scores. Henrik Stenson won a year ago at 22-under 262, and the worst winning score since it became a FedEx Cup playoff event was 15-under 269.
That seems far off given these conditions — swirling wind and fast greens that get bumpier in the afternoon.
Palmer, who started with a 63, made birdie on his first hole and thought he was off to the races. He followed with a double bogey, a bogey and then tried to hang. A birdie on the final hole put him at 8-under 134.
“It could have gone the other way real quick,” Palmer said. “I was glad to get that last birdie on 18 and salvage even (par).”
Day, who shared the 54-hole lead last week at The Barclays, looked as though he might pull away. Day ran off five birdies on the front nine for a 31 to build a two-shot lead, only to drop four shots coming in.