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, who was only two shots back of US co-leaders Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb, and The 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 under water, regardless of whether the lightning stopped,” said Streb, who matched the low round in major history with a seven-under 63 on Friday.
Thirty-seven of 86 golfers who made the cut did complete the third round before storms stopped play for the day, with resumption set for 7am yesterday over the water-logged par-70 layout.
More thunderstorms were forecast, so Kerry Haigh, PGA of America’s chief championships officer, kept third-round pairings for the fourth round and started early to try and finish yesterday.
“Our hope is that those showers or storms hit elsewhere,” Haigh said.
It meant American Kevin Kisner, who fired a five-under-par 65 to share sixth on five-under 205, was to 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, who was level with Day for third.
Haigh called the situation “unfortunate,” but said: “That will be an interesting dynamic, for sure. It will add to the excitement, actually.”
Haigh decided against using threesomes off two tees early on Saturday to complete the third round before the storms because the same forecast produced only a minor stoppage Friday, and he wanted 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 last 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,” he said.
“I would be surprised it wasn’t,” he added.
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