Rain pushes Players Championship final round back to Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - And to think it used to take only two days to play 72 holes of championship golf.

The Players Championship turned into a wet, controversial mess Sunday when yet another round of storms all but promised to extend the PGA Tour's most prestigious event into six days, most of that spent indoors.

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Luke Donald of England played nine holes - six in the morning to complete his second round at 4-under 68 and join three others in the 36-hole lead at 10-under 134; then three in the afternoon before rumbles of thunder heralded the arrival of heavy rain that pounded the TPC at Sawgrass.

Players were sent home 2 1/2 hours later, with Donald and Joe Durant tied at 11 under par. Tim Herron, who tied the tournament record earlier Sunday with six straight birdies, was one shot behind along with defending champion Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Zach Johnson.

They were to return at 7:15 a.m. with hopes the Stadium Course would be ready.

Any other week, the tour almost certainly would settle for a 54-hole winner. But with a five-year exemption at stake and a tournament billed as the fifth major, the tour wants to go the distance.

During the first rain delay on Friday, the four players on the PGA Tour policy board agreed to give commissioner Tim Finchem the authority to extend The Players Championship to Tuesday, if necessary.

''We felt like if this tournament is of the stature that most believe it is, we should make every effort to get in 72 holes,'' said Durant, who is on the board. The others are David Toms, Davis Love III and Scott McCarron.

Herron said there was grumbling in the locker room about whether it should go to Tuesday and, despite being one shot off the lead barely halfway through the event, he doesn't think it should last more than another day.

''I guess the board voted on that during the tournament,'' Herron said. ''I think that's kind of different, to vote on something while play has already been played. They're going to tell us something, you're going to have to do it. An opinion is just an opinion. I'm not the commissioner.''

Durant sensed a difference in opinion during the 2 1/2 hours of delay.

''After I had a chance to reflect on what I said, I should have thought more about it before I spoke,'' Durant said. ''We have regulations in place that are to tell us what to do in situations like this. But in a tournament of this magnitude, where you're awarding a five-year exemption, it's not a typical tournament.

''I stick by my decision. This tournament is a notch above.''

It's certainly a tournament like no other.

Lost in the slop and puddles on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass were some compelling moments Sunday.

Steve Jones, the first-round leader who had to wait 50 hours before his next shot, was still tied for the lead with nine holes to play in the second round until be made double bogey on consecutive holes, shot 43 on the back nine and wound up with a 77, knocking him well off the pace.

Tiger Woods was fortunate to still be playing.

He extended his record cut streak to 140, but returned Sunday morning by hitting into an unplayable lie at the base of a palmetto bush and making double bogey, making him fight to make the cut at Sawgrass for the second straight year. Woods was on the cut line when he holed a 12-foot par putt on the 16th.

By the time he got to No. 18 at 2 under par, the cut had dropped to 1 under. He made bogey to make the cut on the number. It was his closest call since making the cut on the number at the 2003 Masters.

Herron returned Sunday morning to face the toughest par 3, the 219-yard eighth, and he ran off a string of six birdies that shot him into contention with a 66.

''I think I was still asleep. That probably helped,'' Herron said. ''I finally woke up when the sixth one came, and made double bogey.''

But the moment that summed up the week came at the end of play Sunday afternoon.

Scott had just spun a wedge back to 2 feet on the soft, spongy green at No. 4 for his third birdie in four holes. He was one off the lead, and he laced a 3-wood down the middle of the fifth fairway.

Then came a low roar of thunder behind him, and he turned and bowed his head.

''Everyone wants to be out there playing and getting on with the tournament,'' Scott said. ''It's such a great event, and it's a shame it's been spoiled by rain.''

Opinions were divided whether the tournament should be cut short to 54 holes.

Scott, who won the Nissan Open in a playoff after rain allowed for only 36 holes at Riviera, is all for it.

''If it means going to Tuesday, I think that's the right thing to do,'' he said.

The last time a PGA Tour event ended on a Tuesday was the 1980 Tucson Open.

A week like this must have made players pine for the days when the U.S. Open and British Open were contested over two days. That changed in 1926.

And for those who believe The Players Championship should be moved to May?

At this rate, it might end in May.