Padraig Harrington shot to the top of the leaderboard at The Barclays in Farmingdale but even victory this weekend may not be enough to earn him a place on Europe's Ryder Cup Team.
Harrington, searching for his first US PGA Tour title since the 2008 US PGA Championship, recorded a superb seven under par 64 to lead by one stroke from Americans Nick Watney and Brian Harman.
The Irishman cannot qualify by right for José María Olazábal's Team but may be a contender for a wild card.
Harrington had eight birdies, including six of the last seven holes, in his seven under round on the par-71 course.
But Olazábal, at Gleneagles this week for the Johnnie Walker Championship, said it would take "at least" a victory for Harrington on Sunday to put him in the frame for selection on Monday.
"I don't know where I sit. Or maybe I do," Harrington, who turns 41 next week, said to laughter in his press conference.
"I'm not really going to get into and discuss because I'm either going to do one of two things: I'm either going to look like I'm pleading or I'm going to look like I'm incriminating myself, one or the other.
"As I keep saying to people, you over here have this thing called the Fifth (Amendment). I'm going to plead the Fifth.
"I'm not going to build myself up or I'm not going to tear myself down. At the end of the day, it's up to him."
In-form Spaniard Sergio Garcia was shaping up for another title challenge after ending his long drought at the Wyndham Championship last week, as he checked in at five under for a share of fourth place alongside England's Gary Christian.
Justin Rose stood four under, in a group containing Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and KJ Choi, while one shot further back Tiger Woods was alongside his fellow multiple Major winners Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, plus Englishmen Greg Owen, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter.
Woods played alongside World Number One Rory McIlroy who posted a two under 69, the same mark as Lee Westwood.