Archive for Monday, August 15, 2005

Hold everything: Mickelson leads PGA

Lefty’ on top; weather forces delay until today

August 15, 2005


— Thousands of fans stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they shuffled toward the exit late Sunday afternoon at Baltusrol after a final round that delivered high drama in the PGA Championship.

They saw Phil Mickelson soar and stumble, then regain his magic with a shot out of rough so deep he barely could see the ball. They watched Tiger Woods salvage a par by chipping in and finish with two birdies to get under par for the first time, keeping alive slim hopes of a third major to go with his Masters and British Open titles.

They got everything but a winner.

Storms that everyone saw coming halted the final round with Mickelson clinging to a one-shot lead over Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn, forcing the first Monday finish at the PGA Championship in nearly 20 years.

Half of the 12 players on the course were separated by three shots.

Mickelson was 4 under par. Defending champion Vijay Singh and Davis Love III were 2 under, while two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen was 1 under par with the two par 5s remaining.

"It's a shame the crowds didn't get to see the finish, and CBS on TV," Elkington said. "I know I would have liked to have been watching. I had a front seat."

Mickelson went from three shots ahead to two shots behind in a span of seven holes, only to recover as other contenders got swallowed up by deep rough and the pressure of trying to win the final major of the year.

A 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole put him at 4-under for a one-shot lead, and Mickelson saved his momentum with a wedge hammered out of the ankle-deep rough into six feet. He missed that putt - just like he did four others from that length for par earlier in the round - and had about three feet left when play was stopped at 6:35 p.m.

Phil Mickelson reacts to missing a par putt on the ninth green of the final round of the PGA Championship. Mickelson was leading at 4-under par through 13 holes of Sunday's round at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. Bad weather postponed the conclusion of the round until today.

Phil Mickelson reacts to missing a par putt on the ninth green of the final round of the PGA Championship. Mickelson was leading at 4-under par through 13 holes of Sunday's round at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. Bad weather postponed the conclusion of the round until today.

Mickelson and Love had four full holes to play. Elkington was on the 16th tee, while Bjorn had a decent lie in the rough on the 15th. Singh also was on the 16th hole.

The PGA of America knew bad weather was coming, but decided to stay with a 3 p.m. starting time for the final group so that the broadcast could end at 7 p.m. There was a 39-minute delay before the last two groups teed off.

Not everyone was happy with the decision.

"I had certainly asked to maybe go an hour earlier to try to get it in," Mickelson said.

The final round will resume at 9:05 a.m. CDT, the first Monday finish at the PGA Championship since 1986, when Bob Tway holed a bunker shot on the 72nd hole to beat Greg Norman.

"I know TV rules the world and all that," said Stuart Appleby, who was five strokes behind with three holes to play. "But I don't know how TV rules the world at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning."

Kerry Haigh, who runs the PGA Championship, said the forecast was for scattered showers and said the storms came within eight miles of missing Baltusrol.

"We all wanted to see a finish," he said. "It's disappointing."

The day wasn't a total wash.

In the three hours of golf after Mickelson teed off to deafening roars, there were wild shifts in momentum. Mickelson quickly built a three-shot lead and gave it away. Singh dropped three shots in four holes and couldn't make a putt that might have changed his fortunes.

And no one could have imagined Woods would have the best 72-hole score at the end of Sunday.

After bogeying two of the first three holes to seemingly lose any chance, Woods chipped in from deep rough to save par on the seventh hole, hit 2-iron over the green on the 650-yard 17th hole and made birdie, then closed with a 6-foot birdie for a 2-under 68 that put him two shots behind.

But the final two holes are par 5s, making it unlikely that the three guys ahead of him - or Singh and Davis Love III, tied with him at 2 under - will drop shots down the stretch.

"I had a wonderful four tournaments," Woods said of his run through the majors. "I won two, I was close in one, and I don't know about the other one yet."

If today follows form, it could be quite a show.

"I'm starting to hit some good shots, and we've got some birdie holes coming in," Mickelson said.

The delay could significantly alter the final three holes, which were playing into the wind. Overnight rain could take some of the fire out of the course and make pins more accessible, but that might make it tough to reach the par 5s in two shots.

"This is a tremendous advantage, I think," Mickelson said. "We get a few extra holes to play, and hopefully calm weather after hopefully some rain will maybe soften it up a bit."

Mickelson had a three-shot lead when he rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole, but he couldn't run away from the field this time. Lefty lost the lead by making four bogeys in a five-hole stretch, either hitting into the rough or into the bunkers, and losing his touch on the greens.

Elkington, on the 10th anniversary of his PGA Championship victory at Riviera, made all pars through the first seven holes - Goosen was the only other player among the contenders not to drop a shot over that brutal stretch - and took the lead by chipping in behind the 11th green.

But he looked tentative missing 8-foot par putts on the 13th and 15th holes to fall to 3-under.

Singh looked as frustrated as ever.

Trying to join Woods as the only back-to-back PGA champions in the stroke-play era, he saw his ball horseshoe around the cup and stay out as he made double bogey on the third hole and three-putted down the steep ridge on the par-3 fourth to quickly lose ground. The 42-year-old Fijian made one birdie from 3 feet on No. 8, but a half-dozen other chances slid by the hole.

Still, he was only two shots behind with three holes left, the same spot he was in last year at Whistling Straits when he hung around long enough to get into - and win - a three-man playoff.

Only three players finished four rounds under par. Along with Woods, Geoff Ogilvy and U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell each shot 69 to post 279. Six others were under par and will return today.


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