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Rain Continues To Plague TPC

Officials Fret as More Showers Loom

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 28, 2005; Page D11

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., March 27 -- It was another day, another rain delay in the Players Championship on Sunday as most of the world's finest players spent more time watching NCAA basketball in the locker room than they did playing golf on the saturated TPC at Sawgrass course.

Though 71 players managed to finish the second round Sunday morning, none of the four leaders after 36 holes -- Luke Donald, Tim Herron, Joe Durant and Lee Westwood, all at 10-under-par 134 -- were able to complete more than four holes in the third round. Air horns signaling another stoppage in play sounded at 2:30 p.m. and with many holes underwater after several downpours, play was halted for the day at 4:52 p.m.

Sergio Garcia tees off on the 6th hole during the 3rd round of the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Rain could push play into Tuesday. (Stephen Morton -- AP)

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Durant and Donald completed three third-round holes in 1 under and were leading the tournament at 11 under, and Adam Scott, the defending champion, pushed toward the top at 10 under when he birdied three of the four holes he played Sunday afternoon. Also at 10 under were Tim Herron, who vaulted up the board with seven birdies in eight holes in completing his second-round 66 in the morning; Westwood, with three pars in the third round; and Zach Johnson, who played his afternoon three holes in 1 under.

Tournament director Mark Russell said the third round will resume at 7:15 a.m. Monday if the course is ready for play, but that may be difficult. More rain was expected and Russell said finishing the tournament Tuesday remains a possibility because the PGA Tour does not want to declare a winner until 72 holes are played in the richest event on the schedule.

The tour may even keep players moving around the course without repairing them following 54 holes, a timesaver that might get the tournament completed at around 6:30 p.m. NBC said it will air live coverage of the event starting at 2 p.m.

"I know the commissioner [Tim Finchem] wants to play 72 holes of this golf tournament as well as our staff wants to," Russell said. "We look at it as a major championship, and we've got $8 million we're trying to give away and we're trying to do everything we can to play 72 holes."

Herron, at 10 under after recording four straight afternoon pars, said many players were frustrated by the delays and what they perceived as an apparent lack of communication about what was going on.

"They don't know if they should book a flight for tomorrow or Tuesday -- no one is really giving us that," he said. "Are we really going until Tuesday or are we able to get in all the rounds, so no one really knows. . . . I think they'll give us a clue tomorrow morning, but it would be nice tonight or whatever to know.

"You just have to look outside. It's raining hard. If we went up there and made an announcement, do you think they'd say, 'What, do you think we're stupid?' " Russell said, adding that the tour had an official in the locker room all day, "and he's got a radio to me and everyone on the staff and he can answer any question that needs to be answered."

In the morning and early afternoon when the course was playable, there were a number of intriguing developments, including Tiger Woods barely making the cut, his 140th straight, to keep his PGA Tour-leading streak alive.

Woods played the 535-yard 11th hole when he returned to the course at 7:15 a.m., and hit his drive in a palmetto bush down the right side. He had to take a penalty for an unplayable lie, and eventually missed a five-foot putt for double bogey, his first of the week.

He came back with a birdie at the 12th, saved pars with a six-footer at 14 and a tough 12-footer at 16, then bogeyed the 18th hole when an 18-footer for par went down and then ringed around the hole and came out. Woods's problems on the 18th began off the tee, when he was bothered by a camera clicking on his downswing, resulting in a glare and a tee shot in deep rough. His second round of 1 over 73 left him at 1 under for the tournament, right on the cut line. Woods was 1 under for his four holes in the third round and nine shots off the lead.

Phil Mickelson gained ground when he finished his second-round 68 with back-to-back birdies on the fifth and sixth holes and played his first six holes of the third round in 1 under. When the horn blew to stop play, he was at 7 under and lining up a 10-foot birdie putt at the 442-yard seventh hole after a brilliant second shot out of a fairway bunker.

Scott, the youngest winner of this event at age 24 a year ago, is trying to become the first player to win it in consecutive years. He said he had suddenly rediscovered his swing after problems earlier in the week, then made a 12-footer for birdie at the 392-yard first hole, two-putted for birdie from 18 feet on the 532-yard No. 2 and made a six-footer at the 384-yard fourth to get to 10 under.

"I went out and played great for a couple of holes today," Scott said. "Perfect start, so it's a shame we got called off because I felt like I wanted to keep playing forever the way I was going. I was possibly expecting to hand over the trophy today, but I've put myself in position where maybe I can hang on to it for a little longer."

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