He will be there, somewhere, on Monday morning, when play is resumed in the rain-delayed, pressure-cooked final round of the PGA Championship. He will watch that final hour of golf, most likely, from a comfy chair inside the clubhouse at Baltusrol Golf Club, and everyone still on the golf course will know he is there. He is Tiger Woods, and he is the Leader in the Clubhouse, and at some point Monday morning, he may decide to take his clubs and his caddie and head to the driving range to stretch his sinewy limbs and begin warming up.
They played golf for nearly 11 hours Sunday at Baltusrol, give or take a couple of weather delays, and not a thing of any historical import was decided. Theoretically, Phil Mickelson leads the tournament, in that he was 4 under par (but 2 over for the round) and facing a three-foot par putt on the 14th green when play was halted for the night.
And theoretically, Steve Elkington (3 under for the tournament as he plays the 16th hole) and Thomas Bjorn (3 under, 15th hole) are a shot off the lead, while Vijay Singh (2 under, 16th hole) and Davis Love III (2 under, 14th hole) are two shots back and still on the course.
However, those golfers had a restless night of sleep ahead of them when they left the course Sunday evening -- soaked from sweat and rain, and facing the prospect of more abuse at the hands of Baltusrol the next morning -- while Woods, one suspects, would sleep like a baby. That's because he is sitting on the lowest 72-hole score yet posted, a 2-under 278 total that includes the round of 68 he completed Sunday afternoon, before play was stopped for the night at 6:35 p.m.
Woods will be there Monday, in air-conditioned comfort, when play resumes at 10:05 a.m., waiting to see what happens, just in case. Baltusrol's finishing holes are among its easiest, but not necessarily under the final-round pressure at a major, and Woods only needs a couple more stumbles from the leaders.
"You don't know what can happen out there," he said. "I just see the guys are having a hard time out there because the golf course is getting faster . . . and the pins are brutally difficult to try to get the ball close."
Tournament officials and CBS network officials were roundly criticized following the suspension of play Sunday, with golfers, spectators and media members questioning why Sunday's tee times were so late -- the final group, Mickelson and Love, was not scheduled to tee off until 3 p.m. -- when forecasts were calling for storms. Because of darkness, it would have been impossible to continue play much past 8 p.m.
Mickelson, who finished his third round just before darkness fell on Saturday, said he asked tournament officials to move up Sunday's starting times by an hour, to no avail. Once a mid-afternoon thunderstorm pushed back Mickelson's starting time Sunday by about 40 minutes, he said, "I knew there was no chance of us finishing."
Kerry Haigh, managing director of tournaments for the PGA of America, said there were no discussions with CBS about moving up the tee times because of the weather. "If we absolutely knew for sure we were going to be hit [with a storm] at 6 o'clock in the afternoon, then we would certainly talk about" changing the starting times, Haigh said. "But the chance of scattered storms was not necessarily reason to do that."
The way the leader board was backing up all day Sunday, it should have been accompanied by a loud beep-beep warning, so as not to run over anyone standing behind it. Other than Woods, no one in the top six positions at the end of the day was under par for the round.
Mickelson, seeking a second major title to go with his victory at the 2004 Masters, began the day in a tie with Love at 6 under par, surged to a three-stroke lead early in his round, but then dropped four shots in a stretch of five holes on the front nine. The fact he remains in the lead merely proves everyone else is playing just as poorly.
While Mickelson is 2 over thus far in his final round, he is not alone in black numbers on the leader board. Love is 4 over for the round, Singh and Bjorn are 2 over, and Elkington is 1 over.
"The course is significantly harder," Mickelson said. "The difficulty really is on the greens because they're so fast."
However, the day's statistics contradict Mickelson's claim. In fact, it is largely the players' inability to keep their tee shots in the fairway that is killing them. Mickelson hit only five of 10 fairways on Sunday, Bjorn only four of 11 and Love only four of 10. Of all the leaders, Singh has the biggest gripe about the greens: he hit eight of 12 fairways, but needed 28 putts to complete his 15 holes.
All week, Mickelson has both preached and practiced control off the tee. But with a small lead Sunday afternoon, he began changing his approach. At No. 7, for instance, where he had been hitting 3-wood all week in order to keep his ball from running through the fairway into the rough, he pulled out a driver and -- sure enough -- drove it through the fairway and into the rough.
Woods, meantime, was still on the course, finishing up his round, when the leaders began stumbling in near unison. Woods had been 12 shots back entering Saturday's third round and six shots back entering play Sunday, but he played the final two holes -- the only par 5s on the course -- as if he thought he still had a chance.
On the 650-yard 17th hole, which none but the longest hitters in the field have dared try to reach in two, Woods -- who was at even-par at the time, five shots off the lead -- uncorked a mammoth drive and a 2-iron to the back fringe, from whence he made an easy birdie with a fine chip and a tap-in.
On 18 -- a simple two-shot, two-putt birdie hole that Woods managed to butcher in two of the first three rounds -- he missed the fairway and missed the green, but got up and down from the back rough for a birdie.
And at that point, Woods signed his scorecard and became a spectator, a very interested one. On Monday morning, he will be so again -- after a good night's sleep, the sleep of the safe and sound.