Rain delays PGA outcome

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. - The PGA Championship finally got a break from days of sweltering heat. It also got an extra day.

The threat of severe thunderstorms at Baltusrol Golf Club forced tournament officials to suspend play Sunday with 12 players still on the course, including Phil Mickelson, who was one stroke in front of Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn.

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That meant the final holes of the year's final major were to be played Monday morning, and that could be an advantage because the heat - temperatures over the weekend reached 100 degrees - and wind were drying out the greens.

''The course was significantly harder,'' said Mickelson, who led or shared the lead for the first three rounds. ''The difficulty is really on the greens because they're so fast that the wind is moving them at about an inch or two per foot. That's the biggest challenge and why we haven't seen as low scoring. Plus, they're a lot firmer.''

Mickelson, who was facing a short par putt on the 14th green when the sirens sounded, was at 4 under with a one-shot lead. He and Davis Love III started the final round as co-leaders at 6 under, one shot in front of Bjorn.

Monday's forecast called for showers early and a chance of isolated thunderstorms late in the day, with temperatures dropping to a high of 86.

The extra hours of waiting weren't going to bother Mickelson at all.

''This is a tremendous advantage, I think, because we get a few extra holes to play and hopefully calm weather after hopefully some rain will maybe soften it up a little bit,'' the 2004 Masters champion said. ''That gives me one more hole over my competitors to possibly make birdie.''

Elkington, the 1995 PGA champion, had just bogeyed the par-4 15th to fall out of a tie with Mickelson when the delay was called.

''I didn't want to play the last three holes into the wind,'' he said of the par-3 16th and 17 and 18, the only par 5s on the Lower Course.

Other players below par who were to return were defending champion Vijay Singh (2 under through 15), Love (2 under through 14) and Retief Goosen (1 under through 16).

The last time the PGA had a Monday finish was 1986 when Bob Tway birdied the 72nd hole from a bunker to beat Greg Norman by two shots.

Mickelson's Sunday was quite an adventure.

He made an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-3 4th to take a three-shot lead but then made four bogeys in a five-hole stretch, either hitting into the rough or a bunker and missing some makable putts.

''I just didn't get up and down on some of those holes,'' he said. ''I was starting to hit some good shots and we have some birdie holes coming in.''

Elkington took the lead when he chipped in from behind the 11th green. He called it a ''500-to-1 shot.'' Then he missed par putts on 13 and 15 to fall to 3 under.

Bjorn, who matched the low round in majors history Saturday with a 63, made a 40-foot birdie putt on 13 to get within one shot of the lead.

Love dropped four shots in five holes early, then got back in the mix when the leaders started to come back to him.

And the clubhouse leader was the man most thought would win when the week began.

Tiger Woods, who finished the second round on the cut line, closed his 68 Sunday with two birdies and was the clubhouse leader at 2-under 278. He opened with a 75 and then had a 69 and 66 to be within six shots of Mickelson and Love going into the final round.

Woods came to the PGA trying to win three majors in a year for an unprecedented second time. He won the Masters and British Open and finished second to Michael Campbell by two strokes in the U.S. Open.

''I had a wonderful four tournaments,'' Woods said of the 2005 majors. ''I won two, I was close in one, and I don't know about the other one yet.''