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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — As the darkening storm clouds approached, those players who were moving in the right direction at the 94th PGA Championship were hopeful that the menacing sky would bring only the kind of short, minimally disruptive summer squall synonymous with the South.
Those players whose third rounds were heading south — specifically Tiger Woods — felt differently, no doubt, thinking that a weather delay might serve as a salve and help stop the run of poor play.
We’ll find out Sunday what kind of effect the suspension has on the third round, and then the fourth. A tournament that featured a wind-swept Friday had its Saturday interrupted by inclement weather, play stopped at 4:50 p.m., then called for the day at 6:30.
A volatile leaderboard that has created new possibilities will resume the chase on Sunday at 7:45 a.m., weather permitting, although the forecast is favorable. Once third-round play is completed, tournament officials will re-pair the field for the final round, with players being sent in threesomes off the first and 10th tees, starting at 11:44 a.m. If all goes well, the last threesome will start on No. 1 at 1:45 p.m.
Who comprises the final group remains to be seen. When play was called on Saturday, Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh were 6 under par and tied for the lead, with hard-charging Adam Scott one shot back, and Carl Pettersson two behind. Steve Stricker, Graeme McDowell, and Ian Poulter were among those at 2 under, with Woods — who started the round in the final twosome and tied for the lead — limping along at 1 under.
“The way I’m looking at it, I’m going into the final day of the final major of the season tied for the lead, so I mean, I can’t ask for much more,” McIlroy said. “I don’t care if it’s going to be 27 holes, 18 holes, 36 holes. I’m just happy to be going in there in a good position.”
McIlroy has nine holes remaining in his third round, confident that the front-nine 32 he shot will carry over. He could do without the drama, though. McIlroy saved par on the third hole after his drive became lodged in a tree and forced a penalty drop. He then hit his approach shot on and made the 6-foot putt, one of five straight one-putts, three for birdie, to begin his round.
When he birdied the par-3 eighth, his fifth birdie of the day, McIlroy enjoyed a two-shot lead, but a bogey on No. 9 was followed minutes later by a birdie from Singh at the par-5 seventh, the final hole Singh and Woods got in before the horn blew.
“It was a great start, the start that I was looking to get off to,” McIlroy said.
McIlroy’s hot start was matched by Scott, who is trying to follow the 23-year-old Ulsterman in a major way. McIlroy won last year’s US Open, his only major championship victory, after losing a four-shot, final-round lead two months earlier at the Masters. Scott, in control throughout, coughed up last month’s British Open by closing with four straight bogeys to lose to Ernie Els by one.
“Unfortunate we couldn’t continue because I was on a good run,” said Scott, who ran off birdies on Nos. 5 (when he holed a bunker shot), 7, 8, and 9, his momentum stopped only by the late-afternoon storm.
Scott and McIlroy weren’t the only ones disappointed to see the suspension.
“Weather could change everything. The guys could come back after this and it could be flat calm and they could make some numbers,” said Padraig Harrington, who shot 69 and was 1 under through three rounds, tied with Woods and six others for 11th. “I would have rather it stayed the way it was, the same conditions as we played. Who knows what’s going to happen now?
“It could be a good break, but it could be a bad break, as well. I would have settled for the guys to play the back nine in the wind because the back nine was a lot tougher than the front nine.”
The front nine was plenty tough for Woods, who was 3 over for his seven holes, his tournament hopes clinging to life support. He missed short putts, sent wayward shots bouncing off spectators (he hit two fans on No. 4, and handed both autographed golf gloves), and looked very much like the player who has failed to break par in every weekend round at a major this year, despite being in contention at both the US Open and British Open.
“I got off to a rough start today and couldn’t get anything going,” Woods said. “I’ll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.”
For some, 18 holes remain. McIlroy and Scott have 27. For Singh and Woods, they’ll need to play 29. All are looking for the same thing, the 94th PGA Championship, although each carries personal subplots. Can Singh, at 49, become golf’s oldest major champion? Will Scott author an emotional tale of redemption? Might Woods win his 15th major, but first in more than four years? Does McIlroy have a second major in him?Continued...