A nearly five-hour rain delay Saturday set up today's 36-hole march to the Wanamaker Trophy. Washout sets up J.B. Holmes, Sergio, other PGA Championship contenders for a marathon major

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - The luxury SUVs peeled out of the parking lot in a near fleet, the best golfers in the world acting like kids who'd finally been let out of school for the summer. Only, this is no welcome break.

Not with what's waiting at the PGA Championship this morning.

Rain pelted Oakland Hills Country Club Saturday afternoon, with quick storm after quick storm rolling through this Michigan suburb. The last golf ball of the day would be hit a little after 2 p.m. and after a nearly five-hour rain delay that left everyone in limbo, PGA of America officials suspended the tournament until 7:15 a.m. this morning.

The plan calls for 36 holes of golf today for players like J.B. Holmes, who's still the leader at 1-under - and still the only player under par for the tournament - despite not hitting a single shot on Saturday.

"It may be exhausting to play 36 holes, you're putting that much mental effort and everything into it," Holmes said of having to play two full rounds in one day with one of those career-altering major championships on the line. "It's rough."

The PGA desperately wants the trophy to be handed out late this evening, though - and so does its TV partner CBS. The plan (and hope) is for the fourth round to begin at 12:20 p.m. with players teeing off of both No. 1 and No. 10.

"Pace of play will be important," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's director of championships. "We may still - we should still - have time, even if there's a playoff, for a three-hole aggregate playoff.

"But it will be tight."

If someone is not hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy tonight it would mark the second time in four majors this year that play has continued onto Monday (the other being Tiger Woods' 19-hole playoff win over Rocco Mediate in the U.S. Open).

Oakland Hills eases before rain

In what many players took to be a cruel twist, Oakland Hills, the course they'd been comparing to Oakmont Country Club at the 2007 U.S. Open for its beyond tough conditions, had been playing easier Saturday before the dark clouds rolled in. Facing mounting criticism over his setup, Haigh moved some pins into more manageable locations, pushed the tees up on some holes dramatically, including making No. 6 a 318-yard par 4.

Going out in one of the early groups, Andres Romero took advantage, throwing up a 65 that matched the all-time pro tournament scoring record at Oakland Hills. That put Romero in the company of names like Jack Nicklaus and Andy North - and vaulted him from 48th to eighth place at +2 overall in less than five hours.

That didn't exactly thrills guys like Sergio Garcia (+2) who only finished one hole. Or a Brandt Snedker (+2) who played about half a hole and will resume in the middle of No. 1 this morning. Or even a Phil Mickelson, who is still 3 over for the PGA having played five holes of his third round.

"I think they could have called it a lot earlier than they did," said Boo Weekley (+2 overall), who went 1 under in the four holes he played Saturday. "That's a lot of time just waiting there."

After sitting around the Oakland Hills clubhouse for nearly five hours, the players who didn't finish - or in the case of the six players at the top, who didn't even start their third round - now face a marathon major-deciding day today.

As if playing Oakland Hills under these PGA Championship conditions wasn't grueling enough.

The rain started falling just after Romero putted out for par on 18, and play was suspended at 2:16 p.m. By 2:30, it started pouring so hard that huge, enclosed, 40-foot-tall tents that house things like the golf shop, the learning center and media center had water coming through their ceilings.

The PGA reopened the range for the players at 4:30 p.m., planning for play to resume at 5 p.m. A torrential downpour at 4:45 squashed that idea like Oakland Hills' raked-away-from-the-green rough has leveled many a round.

Meanwhile, the players went back to waiting around the clubhouse locker room wondering if they'd ever get back out on the course that's tormented them so far.

All the while, Tiger Woods' 2000 PGA Championship victory over Bob May played out on the big screen TVs showing CBS. It wasn't the sight of Tiger in red as much as the 14-under and 12-under scores on the leaderboard that made the world's best golfers pine for what they are missing at Oakland Hills.

Then again, maybe the trick is to convince yourself that the PGA of America didn't set out to mess with your mind.

"I think that the setup is perfect," Romero said through his translator. "I like it very much. Fairways are perfect. The greens are hard, but they are a good speed. And rough ... it's good rough, you can hit some shots from there. I like the course today."

Of course, Romero played in the morning, the only time that anyone in the field has been able to shoot 68 or under.

It's not like Oakland Hills hasn't given Romero his share of pain either. The 27-year-old from Argentina took a quadruple bogey 8 on the par-4 16th in his second round. Oakland Hills South's 16 wraps around a pond on a dogleg, and Romero splashed twice. The first one came on a 140-yard, 9-iron approach shot that he called "perfect."

"It bounced in front of the green, but like the wind blows just that moment, and it went down to the water," Romero said. "Then again, I tried to make a good shot but again a lot of back spin into the water.

"And after that I got mad, and I played very disconcerted, not very concentrated the rest of the round."

The 16th happened to be only Romero's sixth hole of the second round, and he'd go on to shoot the 8-over 78 that's stopped him from being in the PGA lead.

Of course, the leader would rather be Romero today - one of the few guys who only has to play 18.

August 10, 2008

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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