On an abbreviated but action-packed Saturday at the Masters, Chad Campbell played four holes without making a par -- two birdies to expand his lead, two bogeys to nearly lose it -- and remained atop the leaderboard with a growing list of major champions right behind him.
It was just enough time to set the tone for a marathon Sunday that suddenly is loaded with possibilities.
He was at 6 under par, one shot ahead of Tim Clark and Rocco Mediate.
Right behind was a forceful presence -- defending champion Tiger Woods -- in a position all too familiar.
Woods hit a wedge that spun back to 2 inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie on the third, and he caused the gallery to gasp with a pitch over the mounds and spun sideways when it neared the cup, stopping 5 feet away for another birdie on No. 8. That put him at 3 under through nine holes, three shots behind.
'I'm right there in the ball game,' Woods said.
A year ago, Woods walked off the course four shots behind Chris DiMarco through nine holes, made four straight birdies Sunday morning and went into the final 18 holes with a three-shot lead.
This time, he has company.
Phil Mickelson birdied his first three holes, only to drop shots from the bunker on the next two to join Woods at 3 under, along with Padraig Harrington of Ireland. The other members of the 'Big Five' -- Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen -- were at 2 under, along with Fred Couples and Players champion Stephen Ames.
And don't rule out two other major champions -- Mike Weir, at 1 under through 11 holes, or even Jim Furyk, one of only 11 players who managed to complete the third round.
Furyk got through 12 holes before thunder rumbled beyond the pines, suspending play for 4 hours, 5 minutes. He returned to a course that was softer, longer and more vulnerable to complete a 68 that put him at even-par 216.
Technically, that makes him the clubhouse leader.
'Depends what the other guys shoot,' Furyk said, dismissing the suggestion he was still in the hunt.
And much of that depends on the weather, which could make this Masters even more fickle. The forecast was for sunshine and wind in the morning, when the leaders had to finish the third round, followed by diminishing wind during the final round Sunday afternoon.
Endurance figures to play a big role, too. Campbell and Mediate will have to play 32 holes, while everyone else within four shots of the lead play at least 27 holes. The third round is to resume at 7:45 a.m., EDT, Sunday.
Then again, the fabled green jacket could make everyone forget about how much time they're on the course.
'You're talking about Sunday at the Masters,' said Stewart Cink, who was at even par through 12 holes. 'I think adrenaline will keep everybody going enough to get through it. If endurance comes into play, or maybe fatigue, it will be after the tournament is over.'
For most of Saturday, it was a matter of getting started.
Woods hit a few balls on the practice range before the sirens blared to halt play. Mickelson went through his drill of hitting 100 putts in a 3-foot circle. The leaders didn't tee off until just before 7 p.m.
'I wish we could have played 18 holes in these conditions,' Els said.
It was the fifth straight year rain has interrupted play and changed the nature of Augusta National, and this was especially drastic. Instead of firm, fast conditions that made it difficult to hold the greens, rain gave players the green light to go at the flags.
But while most players zipped along, trying to take advantage of benign conditions, Campbell couldn't get off the course soon enough. He opened with an 8-foot birdie putt and a two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, reaching 8 under par. But his wedge spun off the green at No. 3 leading to bogey, and he made bogey from the bunker on the fourth hole when his 6-foot par putt lipped out.
'We have our work cut out for us,' he said. 'It's where I want to be.'
Going for his third major in as many years, Mickelson came out firing with a shot from the fairway bunker into 10 feet, a nifty pitch to 4 feet on the second and a 15-foot birdie putt on the third hole that sent him soaring to the top of the leaderboard. But he dropped back down after missing a 4-foot par putt, followed by a drive into the trees on the fifth.
Mickelson didn't speak to reporters after his round, getting into his SUV and pulling away.
Mediate, playing in the final group with Campbell, made it a two-shot swing on the par-3 fourth with a rare birdie. Still, he couldn't help but notice Woods lurking behind them.
'As long as he's upright, he's close,' Mediate said.
Woods had to scramble for par twice, from well right of the first green and with a 10-foot par save on the seventh. He looked forward to playing 27 holes, as he did last year, especially on greens that allowed him to play more aggressively.
'I know I'm in condition. That's not a problem,' Woods said. 'It's a matter of execution. In soft conditions like this, you can make some birdies.'
Campbell won earlier this year at the Bob Hope Classic, and his two other PGA Tour titles -- the Tour Championship and the Bay Hill Invitational -- show he has the game.
Even so, his experience is lacking compared with those chasing him.
'Those guys do have more major championship experience with the winds,' Campbell said. 'I'd like to start somewhere.'
Couples got off to a rugged start with a bogey on the opening hole and failed to make birdie on the par-5 second. But the sentimental choice of this Masters -- Ben Crenshaw -- was fading fast.
The 54-year-old Masters champion, found trouble in the trees at No. 2 on his way to a double bogey and was 5 over for his round through eighth holes, 10 shots out of the lead.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.