HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) — Steve Stricker has given himself plenty of chances to win this year, but none quite as good as this.

A burst of birdies at The Barclays carried Stricker to a 6-under 65 and allowed him to zoom past K.J. Choi and into the lead Saturday at Westchester Country Club, the first time he has held the 54-hole lead in nine years.

Finishing it off for his first victory since 2001 won’t be easy.

Choi overcame some errant tee shots on the back nine with a birdie-birdie finish to salvage a 70, leaving him only one shot behind. Hunter Mahan tied a tournament scoring record for the second time in five weeks, this one a 9-under 62 that took him from the middle of the pack to only two shots behind.

And then there was Rich Beem, perhaps the most desperate contender.

Needing a top-10 finish to avoid ending his season in these inaugural PGA Tour Playoffs, Beem overcame a rocky start with an eagle on the ninth hole and a 69, giving him his best chance to win since his’02 PGA Championship.

But it all starts with Stricker, who was at 14-under. He played in the final group at the British Open and was tied for the lead going into the back nine at the U.S. Open, fading both times.