Rain forces Mickelson into second major wait

Up 1, lefty who took 12 years to win a major hopes No. 2 is 5 holes away

PGA Championship

August 15, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. - Phil Mickelson had to wait a dozen years to win his first major professional championship, at the 2004 Masters.

Now he must wait another day to try to win his second.

When the final round of the 87th PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club was suspended last night because of rain and dangerous weather, Mickelson was at 4-under-par, one stroke ahead of 1995 PGA champion Steve Elkington of Australia and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark.

When play resumes this morning, Mickelson will be looking at a short putt for par on the 14th hole. Elkington will be on the 16th tee and Bjorn will be looking at his second shot from the rough on the 15th hole.

It marks the first time since 1986 that the tournament was held over until Monday because of bad weather.

The stoppage came just as Mickelson had seemingly taken back control of the tournament. After watching what had been a three-stroke lead become a two-stroke deficit, Mickelson regained the lead from Elkington with a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-4 13th hole.

"This is a tremendous advantage, I think, because we get a few extra holes to play and hopefully calmer weather after hopefully some rain, maybe soften it up a little bit," Mickelson said. "That gives me one more hole than my competitors, maybe two, to possibly make birdie, as well as play without wind."

The 35-year-old left-hander had just missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 14th green when playing partner Davis Love III pointed out a flash of lightning nearby. Asked if he considered trying to finish the 14th hole, Mickelson joked, "I love this tournament, OK, but I want to live, man."

It looked for a while yesterday that Mickelson was choking away the chance at a second major.

After turning a share of the lead with Love going into the round into a three-stroke lead with a delicate 6-footer for birdie on the par-3 fourth to go 7-under, Mickelson bogeyed the par-4 sixth to begin a run of four bogeys in five holes.

For the first time since the opening round, Mickelson no longer was in the lead. Elkington chipped in for birdie on the par-4 11th to get to 5-under and would move two strokes ahead when Mickelson bogeyed the par-4 10th to fall back to 3-under. Elkington later bogeyed the par-4 13th and par-4 15th.

"I don't feel like today was a slide like yesterday," said Mickelson, who had also taken a three-stroke lead going into the third round and then shot 2-over-par 72. "I thought the course was playing tremendously harder. I don't feel like there were any spots where I wasted a shot or where I couldn't save par."

Said Bjorn, 34, "It turned into some hell of a golf course, I have to say. It was a completely different golf course to what we've seen the other three days."

Of those who began the day at even-par or better, only two-time PGA champion Tiger Woods finished under par, shooting 2-under 68. Until play was suspended, it seemed a possibility that Woods might sneak into a playoff at 2-under-par.

"You don't know what can happen out there," Woods said before play was called. "I just see guys are having a hard time out there because the golf course is getting faster and drier and the pins are brutally difficult to get the ball close to."

Now the likelihood of Woods getting a chance at winning a third major this year and 11th overall appears remote, considering that Mickelson, Elkington and Bjorn have the two closing par-5s left to play.

Two-time champion Vijay Singh, tied with Woods and Love at 2-under, still has three holes left, as does two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa at 1-under.

"I would have liked to have kept going," said Bjorn, who like Mickelson was 2-over-par for the day. "I thought it would turn into four or five players that could win this, and I was feeling good about it. I probably need a couple of birdies over the last four holes to try to win."

Said Elkington, 42, who was at 1-over-par for the round, "It's obviously a shame that we didn't get to finish, but I didn't really want to play the last three holes into the wind, either."

Kerry Haigh, managing director of tournaments for the PGA of America, said last night that there had not been any discussion with CBS about pushing up yesterday's tee time to get finished earlier with the threat of bad weather.

The forecast had called for intermittent thunderstorms, and play had been called for about 30 minutes earlier in the afternoon. By the time play was stopped, the sky was dark and lightning was in the area.

"I think obviously the fans, the spectators are disappointed that we could not end up with a result today," Haigh said. "But for their safety and the players' safety ... [we] cleared the golf course."

Making a dozen players left to wait overnight, one in particular.

But what's a few hours when you've already waited 12 years?

LEADER BOARD

Final Round* Through

Phil Mickelson -4 13

Steve Elkington -3 15

Thomas Bjorn -3 14

Tiger Woods -2 F

Vijay Singh -2 15

Davis Love III -2 13

*Round suspended due to weather

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