Its nothing new for either player. Love is always in contention at this event, while Barlow has had the lead on more than one occasion on the PGA Tour.
Ive led every round of a tournament except on Sunday, said Barlow. Ive been the first-round leader, second-round leader and third-round leader, and I have one more to accomplish.
Barlow fired a 6-under 65 Thursday, coming home in a course-record 8-under 28. Ive shot 28 once before, but not in a tournament, he said.
Love and John Senden had a 66 in Round 1. Ten players are tied for fourth place. 2000 champion Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell, Rocco Mediate, David Sutherland, Greg Chalmers, Rod Pampling, Kenny Perry, Tom Pernice, Jr., Hal Sutton and Scott Simpson shot 4-under 67.
Len Mattiace, who lost last week's Masters Tournament in a playoff to Mike Weir, is among those at 3-under.
While Barlow is seeking his first career tour victory, Love is vying for his fifth career win in this event alone.
He won in 1987, 91, 92 and 98. Sam Snead holds the record for most tour titles in the same event with eight at Greensboro.
In addition to his domination at Harbour Town Golf Links, Love also has a pair of wins under his belt this year ' both at venues where he had previously prevailed.
Love won for the second time at Pebble Beach and for the second time at the TPC at Sawgrass. The last time he had a three-win campaign was 1992 ' a year, incidentally, in which he won both The Players Championship and the Heritage.
Love appeared ready to again capture this event last year. However, he followed his opening 62 with 68-72-71, and finished four back of eventual winner Justin Leonard.
I think thats the way I kind of describe my whole last two years, Love said. Before this year, every once in awhile, Id have a good round and it would put me on the leaderboard, but I really wasnt playing 100 percent where I felt like I was winning or on top of everything.
Aside from a poor first round last week at Augusta ' when he shot 77 ' Love has been on top of just about everything this season.
Never was it more evident than when he fired a final-round 64 in cold, windy, wet weather to win The Players.
A couple of guys were teasing me in the locker room saying, Oh, you were working hard on the range yesterday for a guy that just shot 64 in The Players, said Love.
You know, youve got to be ready and so I worked at it yesterday to make sure that I was going to be comfortable with my driver and my 3-wood (this week).
The practice paid off Thursday as he hit all 14 fairways on the precision layout. He also needed only 24 official putts, which didnt include rolling in a 35-footer for birdie from the fringe at the par-4 10th, his first hole of the day.
While Love had an efficient five birdies and no bogeys, Barlow made two eagles, five birdies and three bogeys.
He shot 2-over 37 on the back nine, his first nine holes, but turned it around completely at the turn. His second nine featured eagles on the par-5 second and fifth holes.
Mike Souchak (1955), Andy North (1975) and Billy Mayfair (2001) hold the nine-hole tour scoring record at 27.
Barlow said the difference was as simple as a slight adjustment in ball position. Having had problems all year long with pushing shots to the right, the 30-year-old Las Vegas native put the ball a little forward in his stance, starting with his second shot at 18, and ' viola.
It felt uncomfortable, but I had nothing to lose. I started hitting good shots and I started rolling with it, he said.
Golf is a silly game when it comes to feel.
Barlow said he moved the ball a couple of inches closer to the center of his stance. He admitted that he had tried doing it earlier in the year, but could never find his comfort level.
Im a feel player; I dont play on mechanics, he said. If it doesnt give me a feel, I search for a different feel ' and I found the feel. Theres no other explanation expect it worked.
And he needs it to continue through to the weekend. Barlow has missed six cuts in nine starts this year, and is mired in 184th place on the money list.
A slow start is nothing new to the six-year tour veteran. He has had to scramble late each year to try and keep his card. He finished 124th on the money list in 1999, 122nd in 2001, and 124th in 02.
Im just thankful its not the top 120 keeps your card or I would never have kept it, he said. All I can do is play as hard as I can. If Im a bubble guy, thats who I am.
Obviously, I would love to graduate from that position.