With a win in the opening event of the tour's four-tournament playoff stretch, Garcia would take over the top spot in the FedEx Cup points chase.
He shot a 3-under 68 at the Bethpage State Park Black Course Friday for a two-day total of 8-under 134. That tied him for the lead with Nick Watney, who began last year's playoffs in first place and wound up ninth.
Watney shot a 69 that included an eagle at the par-5 fourth hole.
Among those at 137 was Tiger Woods, who played in obvious discomfort throughout the round due to a sore back that he said came from sleeping on a soft mattress at his hotel.
"It hurt all day," said Woods, who was the points leader at the start of the playoffs and who shot a 69 to tie Rickie Fowler, John Huh and Gary Christian for ninth place.
First-round leader Padraig Harrington bogeyed the first three holes Friday, shot a 75 and finished 36 holes at 139 in a tie for 16th place.
The playoffs began with 125 players still eligible to win the FedEx Cup and its accompanying prize of $10 million.
Love began the playoffs in 105th place and he missed the cut at this tournament with a 148 total.
Among those who gave themselves a chance for a big move up the points list during the opening two rounds was Christian, who was in 111th place going into the playoffs.
A finish among the Top 10 this week would guarantee him not only a spot among the 100 players who will compete at next week's Deutsche Bank Championship, but would also ensure him a position in the field of 70 that will play at the BMW Championship.
Only the first 30 on the points list will play in the Tour Championship, the final tournament of the playoffs.