SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Another PGA Championship at Baltusrol is likely headed toward a Monday finish after afternoon thunderstorms wiped out third-round play before the leaders even finished their warmup.
The horn sounded at 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday, with tournament officials optimistic that the delay would last about an hour. Instead, it turned into an all-day affair, with play eventually called at 5:46 p.m.
The third round will resume at 7 a.m. Sunday, when the forecast is no less ominous – there is at least a 65-percent chance of storms from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. The final round is slated to begin at 8:40 a.m., keeping the same pairings as Round 3 and going off the first tee.
If there are no further delays – a big if, given the forecast – then a winner could still be crowned Sunday evening.
“We do have Monday as an option, to continue into Monday if need be,” said Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer, “but our primary aim is to try and finish tomorrow evening.”
This PGA is already beginning to resemble the last time the championship came here, in 2005. That year, an exciting final round was twice delayed by afternoon thunderstorms – which the forecast called for and the PGA ignored – pushing the event into a Monday-morning finish in front of few fans.
Though it escaped Friday with only a 41-minute delay because of weather, the PGA clearly botched the tee times for the 86 players in the third round; even as early as Friday evening, the next-day forecast called for storms to arrive in the area at about 2 p.m. Saturday.
Rather than start early in threesomes off split tees, the PGA followed tradition and sent out the final group of Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb at 2:55 p.m., hoping to deliver a 7 p.m. finish for TV partner CBS.
Haigh said that the possibility of a two-tee start was not even “significantly discussed,” because the forecast for Saturday was not dissimilar to the past two days, when they dodged summer storms.
“It’s a major championship, and we want it to be ran and perform as a major championship,” he said. “We feel it’s important for all the players, in an ideal world, to play from the first tee and play the holes in order.”
When play was suspended at 2:15 p.m., only 37 players had finished their third round, with Kevin Kisner and Padraig Harrington pacing the field with 65s. Most annoyed should be Marc Leishman, who marked his 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole just as the horn sounded.
Ten players, or five groups, have yet to begin their round.
“I was a little surprised they didn’t do threesomes,” Streb said. “I don’t know if they would have gotten done, but they would have been close. But it’s not our tournament to run, it’s theirs.”
Haigh said that the weather Sunday morning will determine whether they re-pair for the final round. If not, it could produce a scenario in which the back half of the field plays in wildly different conditions than the leaders.
“That will be an interesting dynamic, for sure,” he said.
Baltusrol has already been pounded by more than four inches of rain since Monday. Because of the soft conditions, Walker and Streb (on the strength of a Friday 63) posted a two-round total of 9-under 131, which tied for the championship record for low 36-hole score. Before play was suspended, a handful of players, including Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose, predicted that someone would challenge the major barrier and shoot 62 (or lower), based on the receptive conditions and gettable hole locations for the third round.
Now, the wait will continue into Sunday – or later.
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