The first real clue that Saturday at the U.S. Open was going to be a wild ride came, fittingly, on the 13th hole, one day after Friday The 13th.
Thats where Phil Mickelson, humbled 24 hours earlier in the company of Tiger Woods, needed nine strokes.
That added up to a quadruple bogey. Thats what HE did next.
Moments later Woods duck-hooked his drive over the first tee, struggled his way to an indelicate double bogey and the third round at Torrey Pines South was alive and kicking back.
Much, much later in long, long day, things got really good. Woods eagled the 13th with a bomb. Then he chipped in on 17 for birdie. Then he drained another monster putt on the final hole.
And all of a sudden, the worlds best and bravest golfer, limping pretty much every step of the way, found himself leading the years second major by one shot over Englands Lee Westwood after 54 holes. It was all as probable as it was improbable.
Yes, Woods said, asked about pain after writing yet another chapter to his large legend. It is getting worse.
But there is a pervasive sense that Tiger Woods isnt about to let anybody bury his king size heart anywhere near his recently surgically-repaired wounded knee.
Saturdays grand and electrifying stage had been set, it turned out, in classical style one day earlier. The indigenous meteorological phenomenon known as the marine layer, and referred to by the locals as June Gloom, did not burn off during the late afternoon hours Friday.
So the huge second round galleries following Woods, Adam Scott and Mickelson didnt have to squint to see the groupings final nine holes because there wasnt any sun.
The net effect was an oddly-beguiling lack of color on the golf course. It was as if the whole thing was being played out in black and white. And that grainy backdrop seemed fitting for the memorable 30 Woods carded on his inward half to finish just one shot off the 36-hole lead.
Spectators could have been excused if they sensed they were watching a history-making performance unfolding, live, on the kind of newsreel strip that used to feature Bobby Jones or Walter Hagen.
And longtime Associated Press photographer Leonard Ignelzi couldnt have been more aware of the significance or happier with the development. Ignelzi has shot heavyweight prize fights and major golf championships all over the world for several decades. An avid golfer, he still plays to a single digit handicap.
He was delighted by what the lack of sunshine was presenting him. This is a very flat light with the marine layer, he said as Woods advanced up the sixth fairway. We love that because there are no shadows. Its like were shooting something right out of The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Surreal, agreed Jim Hyler, the powerful chairman of the USGAs Championship committee after walking every step of the way with the Woods grouping Friday.
When a man caught up with Hyler and Mike Davis, Friday evening their blazers were off and they were headed out for a late dinner. Davis is the USGAs rising star, course set-up guy and a fine amateur player in his own right. It was his opinion that Woods would mostly remain in the zone he had found Friday.
Both men agreed that Saturday would be the key day. Left unsaid, but understood was the fact that all of Woods 13 major championship victories have come when he was leading or tied for the lead after 54 holes. Never has Woods lost in a major championship when leading or tied for the lead after 54 holes. And never, it follows, has Woods come from behind after 54 holes to win a major championship.
He wont have to worry about the latter. And Sunday, if form holds and the knee doesnt fold, the end result should surprise no one.
This is all, by the way, turning out to be much more exciting than the legend of Bagger Vance.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt