An army of workers shoveled like rushed gravediggers yesterday, trying desperately to save what was left of the final round of the beleaguered Booz Allen Classic. They labored all morning under gray skies and a canopy of clouds that brought the omnipresent threat of rain, hoping to get TPC Avenel into good enough shape to finish the last few holes of what could be the last PGA Tour stop in the region.

But three inches of rain and the threat of lightning overwhelmed the crew's attempts, forcing officials to again postpone the completion of the final round and what should be an easy victory by leader Ben Curtis.

Players were on the course for 1 hour 23 minutes yesterday, good enough for 40 of 46 golfers to complete their rounds. But the six remaining players -- who were pulled from the course at 1:43 p.m. and never returned -- will try to finish this morning at 7:30.

The Booz Allen, long infamous for its terrible weather, will be the first PGA Tour event to host a Tuesday finish since the 1980 Tucson Open. However, no fans will be permitted on the grounds due to "parking and security concerns," tournament officials said in a statement.

"We've got about 20 minutes of golf left and we just couldn't get it done today," said PGA Tour tournament director Mark Russell, who sent competitors home just after 5 p.m. when it became clear that the rains were not going to relent.

Curtis, who must now wait another night before officially taking his second career victory, was putting on the 17th green with a seven-shot lead when the horn sounded to call players in.

"You wait three years," said Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion. "So, I guess I can wait another day. Fine with me."

Nick O'Hern and Steve Stricker, who are tied for second place seven shots behind Curtis, are also scheduled to resume their rounds. They are tied with Padraig Harrington and Billy Andrade, who have completed play.

Curtis steadied himself after a shaky start, resuming play with a double bogey on No. 12 after leaving himself a difficult chip. Still with a comfortable lead, Curtis played it safe, hitting fairways and the middle of greens while recording three straight pars before notching a birdie on No. 16.

"It was stress-free pretty much except for the 12th hole," said Curtis, who has led the tournament each day.

Play was supposed to start at 8 a.m. but the course was unplayable and the starting time was pushed to 11 a.m.

Meantime, cart paths turned into little beltways around the bog, carrying golf carts full of maintenance crewmembers, water pumping equipment and curious players who wanted to survey the damage themselves.

Nearly five inches of overnight rain soaked the course and nearly nine inches have fallen here since Sunday afternoon. The heaviest damage came on the course's bunkers.

Water rose so high on some parts of the front nine that when crews arrived early yesterday morning, they saw debris hanging from nearby gallery ropes. Water levels were hip high in many bunkers, completely submerging the one guarding the left fairway on No. 14.

Crews needed nearly an hour to clear that bunker, using pipes and pumps to move the standing water into a creek across the fairway.

The rain hit with enough force to push sand off the faces of the traps, exposing the dirt, rocks and red clay below the surface. The edges of some of the traps looked as if they had been nibbled on by a sand-eating shark.

Groundskeepers, working barefoot and with their pants rolled up to their knees, moved from flooded bunker to flooded bunker. They started at No. 13 and began the laborious march to repair the rest of the back nine.

Scorers and other officials working for the PGA Tour joined in the effort, shoveling mud and raking water while wearing long-sleeved shirts and ties.

Play started at 11:11 a.m. and stopped just six minutes later, thanks to a heavy downpour. After a delay of a little more than an hour, the players returned before the final stoppage came.

Andrade in particular appreciated the work of the grounds crew, and for good reason.

He entered the final round in a tie for 19th place, worth about $70,000. But he rallied during the last two rain-shortened days. Andrade started play yesterday with his ball sitting on the 18th fairway. He used an 8-iron to hold the green, then sank a 27-foot putt for birdie.

"I left last night thinking I would really like to make birdie on this hole," said Andrade, who won the event in 1991. "And I went out and did it."

The birdie vaulted him into a tie for second. If he stays there, the putt will be worth more than $300,000.

Golf Note:Heavy rain forced the delay of yesterday's scheduled British Open qualifying tournament at Congressional Country Club. Play will start today at 8 a.m. on the Gold and Blue courses. If the event isn't completed today, it will be canceled and the 12 spots up for grabs will instead be awarded based on the Official World Golf Rankings.