LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rory McIlroy teed off with a one-shot lead at the PGA Championship, seeking his second straight major title after heavy rain interrupted the final round at Valhalla.
Play was suspended for nearly two hours Sunday when a storm swept through the club on the outskirts of Louisville. Workers brought out squeegees, trying furiously to push standing water off the course. Towels were used to dry the tee boxes.
About an inch of rain fell in 45 minutes, but it took longer to get the course back in playing shape. The sun came out after the rain passed, giving it the feel of a sauna as the temperature climbed toward the upper 80s.
Ernie Els was making the biggest charge, posting five birdies on the front side to climb within three shots of the lead. Phil Mickelson was just one shot back after making a 30-footer at the first, then another birdie at the third.
During the 1-hour, 51-minute delay, ducks wallowed in an impromptu creek running down the middle of a fairway. Sergio Garcia rolled up his pants and fled to the cover of the clubhouse, splashing along the way. Rickie Fowler had some fun with Billy Horschel, who was walking around barefooted, having removed his soaked socks and shoes.
The second suspension of the tournament – play also was halted for less than an hour Friday morning – raised the possibility that the final major of the year stretching into Monday.
McIlroy, who won the British Open for his third major title, and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger teed off at 4:19 p.m. EDT. The PGA of America hoped that would provide just enough time to finish the round before darkness.
If there’s a tie at the end of 72 holes, however, a three-hole playoff would be required.
That would surely have to be held Monday morning.
Players complained about not being allowed to use preferred lies on the muddy course.
“The ball should have been played up, simple,” Graeme McDowell said. “It’s casual water everywhere. The ball is picking up mud. … Common sense has to prevail at some point. Let’s lift, clean and place this thing.”
Ian Poulter said he had to take relief on nearly fairway because of standing water. Twice, he had to place his ball in the rough to get a dry spot.
McIlroy played in the final group with one of the biggest surprises of the tournament. Wiesberger, a member of the European Tour who has never contended in a major championship, turned in three straight rounds in the 60s, including a 65 on Saturday that pushed him up the leaderboard.
Fowler started out two shots down, but lost ground after driving into a creek at the second.
Mickelson teed off facing a three-shot deficit, as did Jason Day.
Colin Montgomerie, who had to finish the 18th hole after the rain delay, noted that the British Open used a two-tee start in the third round for the first time in its 154-year history. He said the PGA of America made a mistake by not doing the same, which would have provided more leeway to complete the round.
“Nobody wants to be here Monday – nobody,” Montgomerie said.
He said it was clear the PGA had to revise the schedule to send off the final group by 4:19 p.m. to have any chance of finishing, even though the course was “borderline.” The remaining tee times were compressed to nine-minute intervals, instead of 10.
“They either go now or they don’t finish,” Montgomerie said.
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