Thunderstorms Reign at PGA

Padraig Harrington rallies from three shots down with a final-round 66 to win the PGA Championship, his second consecutive major title.
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 10, 2008

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich., Aug. 9 -- A series of violent thunderstorms sent golfers and thousands of spectators scurrying for cover early Saturday afternoon, and play in the third round of the 90th PGA Championship never did resume at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Just 25 players managed to complete their third rounds before the first suspension of play was called at 2:16 p.m., and the three final groups of leaders never teed off. The leader in a clubhouse that actually lost power for two hours as lightning crackled was 27-year-old Andrés Romero of Argentina, with a three-round total of 2-over-par 212.

Starting under sunny skies and mild breezes at 10:10 a.m., Romero made seven birdies on the way to a magnificent round of 5-under 65 that was the lowest score of the week by two shots and tied eight others for the course's competitive record.

Romero managed to finish just a few minutes before the first of three separate cloudbursts dumped more than a half inch of pelting rain on what had been a firm, fast and extremely difficult course. Tournament officials decided Friday night to water greens and fairways to take some of the bite out of a venue that had yielded just 13 sub-par scores over the first two days.

Only one man, long-hitting 36-hole leader J.B. Holmes, was able to shoot under par over the first two rounds combined, posting a 1-under 139. The Kentucky native averaging 337.5 yards off the tee on his measured drives this week -- 10 yards longer than Englishman Justin Rose -- took a one-shot lead into the third round over Rose and Americans Charlie Wiand Ben Curtis. All three were at even-par 140.

Holmes made it to the practice range several times during the day but will not play again until Sunday, when he and the five other players who never started Saturday will have to go 36 holes before the Wanamaker Trophy will be awarded to the champion late Sunday evening.

PGA of America officials decided not to resume after a third weather cell erupted over this Detroit suburb shortly before 5 p.m. They officially shut it down at 6:25 p.m., and the third round will begin at 7:15 a.m. Sunday for the 48 players who were unable to finish their Saturday third rounds.

The third round likely will be completed by about noon Sunday. The final round would then begin at 12:20 p.m., with threesomes going off the first and 10th tees. The last group of leaders would tee off at 2:20 p.m., and with no rain in the Sunday forecast, a Monday finish isn't likely.

Romero, who fashioned his 65 with seven birdies and two bogeys, needed just 24 putts on a day when he hit 10 fairways and reached 12 greens in regulation. He had a run of four birdies in a five-hole stretch starting at the 318-yard No. 6, where his second-shot chip hit the flagstick for a kick-in 3.

Romero thought he had played himself out of contention Friday, when he hit two shots in the water and made a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 406-yard 16th hole on his way to a second-round 78 after opening the tournament with a 69 on Thursday.

"I played an excellent round, almost perfect," Romero, a native of Argentina, said of his Saturday performance. "Now, after this 18 holes, I can't believe it; I have a chance for tomorrow."

Romero started the third round at 7-over 147 and was tied for 48th after 36 holes. When he finished shortly before the first storm hit, he had pushed into eighth place.

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