Storms, no new pairings set up wild finish at PGA Champs

Rain (File)
Rain (File)

Springfield - Thunderstorms that prevented leaders from starting the third round of the PGA Championship on Saturday set the stage for a bizarre finish at rain-swamped Baltusrol.

Top-ranked defending champion Jason Day of Australia, only two shots back of US co-leaders Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb, and British Open champion Henrik Stenson, who sat three adrift, were among those unable to tee off due to dangerous weather.

"The course looks like it's unplayable. Everything is underwater, regardless of whether the lightning stopped," said Streb, who matched the low round in major history with a seven-under 63 on Friday.

But 37 of 86 golfers who made the cut did complete the third round before storms stopped play for the day, with resumption set for 7 a.m. (12:00 SA time) Sunday over the water-logged par-70 layout.

More thunderstorms are forecast Sunday and Monday, so Kerry Haigh, PGA of America's chief championships officer, decided to keep third-round pairings for the fourth round and start it early to try and finish on Sunday.

"Our hope is that those showers or storms hit elsewhere," Haigh said.

But it means American Kevin Kisner, who fired a five-under par 65 to share sixth on five-under 205, will play his final round while Day and other 36-hole leaders are in their third.

"There's going to be people that play 18 holes like Kevin Kisner and he's going to have a little bit more of an advantage," said Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, level with Day for third.

Haigh called the situation "unfortunate" but added, "That will be an interesting dynamic, for sure. It will add to the excitement, actually."

Haigh decided against using threesomes off two tees early Saturday to complete the third round before the storms because the same forecast produced only a minor stoppage Friday, and he wants everyone off the first tee on the weekend.

"We feel it's important for all the players to play from the first tee and play the holes in order," Haigh said.

Streb and Walker were on nine-under 131 after 36 holes, two shots ahead of Day and Grillo with Stenson fifth at six-under as the mental and physical challenge loomed.

"I'm happy to stay here until Tuesday just to get it done," Day said. "You've got to be a little bit aggressive. It should yield a few more birdies, but also stay patient with regards to the weather, just keep yourself mentally intact. If you don't, you can start playing some poor golf."

Baltusrol had already been soaked by three inches of rain this week, creating soft conditions that had five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, the 2005 PGA winner at Baltusrol, predicting a major-record 62 or better for the weekend.

"Somebody is going to break that 63 record in these next two days," Mickelson said after firing a third-round 68. "Greens are pristine. You can make a lot of putts. They are soft, so you can get the ball very close.

"I think there's that 61 or 62 out there. I think it will be broken in the next two days. I would be surprised it wasn't."

In all, major 63s have been fired 30 times by 28 different golfers. Baltusrol has surrendered four major 63s, the most of any course, and the PGA has allowed 14 63s, as many as the US and British Opens combined.

"You'll see very low scoring because you can be very aggressive," said two-time major winner Martin Kaymer of Germany, four off the pace. "You've got to shoot low scores in order to have a chance on Sunday."

Kisner birdied three of the last four holes for a 65 to grab the clubhouse lead. He doubted 63 would fall but admitted, "Somebody gets hot, you never know."

"Keep it in the fairway, you can attack. The course is receptive enough. You can make a lot of birdies."

Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
45% - 5581 votes
11% - 1384 votes
18% - 2317 votes
2% - 280 votes
1% - 109 votes
2% - 282 votes
5% - 614 votes
8% - 992 votes
3% - 393 votes
Water sports
1% - 109 votes
American sports
1% - 119 votes
3% - 361 votes