Monday finish in prospect at Baltusrol as bad weather takes control
Published 30/07/2016 | 16:06
The US PGA Championship faces the prospect of a Monday finish at Baltusrol for the second time in succession after bad weather prevented the final groups from starting their rounds on Saturday.
The top 10 players on the leaderboard did not make it out onto the course before an approaching thunderstorm forced play to be suspended at 2.15pm local time (7.15pm BST).
Persistent heavy rain then left parts of the course flooded before play was finally abandoned for the day shortly before 6pm local time, with a resumption set for 7am on Sunday.
However, similar conditions were forecast and any further delays would force the final major of the year into a fifth day, just as they did the last time Baltusrol staged the US PGA in 2005.
One man actually hoping for history to repeat itself was Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who had earlier carded a flawless 65 to finish four under par, matching Phil Mickelson's winning total of 11 years ago.
Mickelson's second major title was sealed on a Monday after bad weather disrupted the final round, the left-hander eventually making a birdie on the 72nd hole to finish a shot ahead of Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington.
Harrington ended the day a shot off the clubhouse lead held by American Kevin Kisner, who also recorded a 65 before the suspension.
The 44-year-old Dubliner, who successfully defended his Open title in 2008 and won the US PGA a month later at Oakland Hills, said: "In my head I'm hoping the scoring goes the same it did the last time the PGA Championship was here, when the leaders came under pressure on the golf course and maybe some guys behind, namely me, get a bit of momentum early on and can push on.
"If you do get momentum in the early holes you feel good and feel there are opportunities to make birdies."
Justin Rose certainly agreed with that assessment and had predicted that the first 62 in major history was a real possibility before the bad weather intervened.
Rose celebrated his 36th birthday by recovering from a bogey on the opening hole to card a 66 and improve to two under par, having made the cut on the mark of two over.
''The birthday present was last night, making the cut,'' the former US Open champion said. ''When I tapped in to finish my round I felt like I was going to make the cut but as the day went on I felt I was going to miss it and we sweated it.''
The top 70 players and ties qualified for the weekend, with 69 eventually finishing on one over par to let the likes of Rose, Ernie Els and Matt Fitzpatrick make the final two rounds.
"It was one of the tightest cuts I've seen, incredibly close, but I was very happy to be out here today and made the most of it, which was fun," Rose added.
"I've just got a vague feeling there might be a 62 today. I'm not saying it's that easy, but anyone who gets under par through the first six or seven holes, it's on. The course is there for the taking and the back nine is full of chances.
"I actually didn't play that well to be honest and putted unbelievably well, which was so much fun. It's what I've been working hard on and today was one of the first days I've really seen a great deal of progress."
Rose has won at least one event worldwide every year since 2010, but the Ryder Cup star has yet to taste victory in a frustrating 2016 campaign hampered by a back injury.
"It's definitely on my mind for sure," the world number 11 added. "I've got to look at 2011 which wasn't a particularly good year and then I won the BMW Championship and turned it into a great year.
"It can happen any week. I'm aware time is running out but I feel a few things in my game are beginning to click and when they do I know I'm going to be in contention and then you hope to put it away."
Fitzpatrick could not match Rose's score but a second consecutive 70 at least represented progress after missing the cut in his last four events.
The 21-year-old currently occupies the final Ryder Cup qualifying place and was told earlier this week to "relax" by European captain Darren Clarke, who has still been impressed by Fitzpatrick's statistics since winning the Nordea Masters in June.
"Darren knows best and always tells me that, but it's just difficult when every putt means a lot and it's almost one of those things where you try too hard," Fitzpatrick said. "It's annoying at the minute but you've just got to keep working at it."
Arguably the happiest player at Baltusrol was Scotland's Russell Knox, who completed a 67 just seconds before play was suspended after spotting an official was about to blow the horn and rushing to tap in his par putt on the 18th.
Playing partner Marc Leishman was not so fortunate, however, the siren sounding as he lined up his own putt and forcing the Australian to wait until play resumed before completing his round.