SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – The PGA Championship was halted because of thunderstorms Saturday, raising the possibility of a second straight Monday finish in a major championship at Baltusrol.
Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb, tied for the lead at 9-under par, were 40 minutes from teeing off in the third round when clouds gathered, the sky rumbled and the horn sounded to suspend play. The course was pounded with rain and players eventually were sent home.
The third round was to resume at 7 a.m., weather permitting. More rain was in the forecast.
The PGA said players would stay in the same pairings and go off in the same order for the final round, starting as early as 8:40 a.m. That at least would allow the chance to finish Sunday evening, though it also meant the champion could finish hours before the last group finished.
Kevin Kisner had a 5-under 65 and was done with 54 holes at 5-under 205. Padraig Harrington also had a 65 and was at 4-under 206.
Only 37 of the 86 players who made the cut completed the third round, and 10 players had yet to tee off. Russell Knox lagged his 65-foot birdie attempt on the 18th hole to within a few inches, tapped in for par and a 67, and then the horn sounded right as Marc Leishman was getting ready for his 12-foot birdie putt.
Knox jokingly apologized to Leishman on Twitter: “Grub, showered and feet now up. Make that putt so we don’t play 4 straight days together.”
Phil Mickelson won the 2005 PGA Championship when tournament organizers took a gamble on not moving up the Sunday tee times because of rain in the forecast, and it cost them. Mickelson had to return Monday morning to claim a one-shot victory.
The last Monday finish in a major was just last year at the British Open because of heavy rain that flooded St. Andrews.
Kisner and Harrington showed a glimpse of what figured to be low scoring Saturday because of the soft conditions from two spells of rain earlier in the week. Play had to be stopped Friday morning for nearly an hour because of moderate rain that left the two fairways on the far end of the course filled with too much water.
“You keep it in the fairway, you can attack,” Kisner said. “The course is receptive enough. You can make a lot of birdies.”
Mickelson made the cut with one shot to spare on Friday, rallying from an opening tee shot that went out-of-bounds and onto a side street. He shot a 68 on Saturday and was at 1-under 209.
“There is a low 60s round,” Mickelson said when he finished. “I think somebody is going to break that 63 record in these next two days. The greens are pristine. You can make a lot of putts. They are soft, so you can get the ball very close. I think that there’s that 61 or 62 out there that I was probably trying to chase a little too hard.”
Two weeks ago, Mickelson had a putt for 62 that rimmed out of the cup at Royal Troon in the opening round. Henrik Stenson closed with a 63, needing his best golf to hold off Mickelson.
And then Friday, Streb became the 28th player to post a 63 when he made a 20-foot birdie on his final hole at Baltusrol.
The course was so susceptible that Harrington didn’t feel as though he played all that well and still played bogey-free for a 65.
“Hit the right shots at the right time and any of the shots that I didn’t hit well didn’t do me any harm,” he said. “So it was one of those days. It’s nice when you score better than you play. It was just an average day, as I said. Thursday was the day I played well. It was amazing, the best I played Thursday, is the worst score I shot. That’s the nature of the game.”
The nature of the game Saturday was to wait.
Jordan Spieth played one hole and narrowly missed a birdie putt. Rickie Fowler had 45 feet for birdie on the first hole.
That was as far as they got.
Now they face a marathon Sunday, with a reasonable chance they will not finish until Monday.