Mickelson leads as rain delays PGA finish

Phil Mickelson soared and then stumbled but was still leading by a stroke on Sunday when thunderstorms halted play and forced officials to push back the finish of the United States PGA Championship by 24 hours.

In a dynamic final round that included everything but a winner, Mickelson went from three shots ahead to two shots behind Steve Elkington in a span of seven holes, only to recover when others got swallowed up by deep rough and the pressure of trying to win the final major of the year.

Mickelson was four under par and had a three-foot par putt on the 14th hole when the final round was called off for the rest of the day.

Twelve players were to return at 10am on Monday, the first time the PGA Championship has gone five days since Bob Tway won at Inverness in 1986.

Elkington was a stroke back at three under through 15, tied with Thomas Bjorn, who was a hole behind him. Tiger Woods, who had finished his round, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III were at two under.

Singh was through 15 and Love had completed 13 holes.

No one could have imagined Mickelson would struggle after the way he started.

And despite a 39-minute delay just before the leaders teed off, no one could have guessed that Woods would have the best 72-hole score at the end of Sunday.

Woods finished with birdies on the last two holes for a two-under 68, putting him at two-under 278, two shots behind.

But the final two holes are par fives, making it unlikely that Mickelson, Elkington, Bjorn, Singh or Love all 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.”

Mickelson was optimistic.

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

Mickelson had a three-shot lead when he rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole. But he 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 10-year anniversary of his US PGA Championship victory at Riviera, made all pars through the first seven holes—Retief 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 eight-foot par putts on the 13th and 15th holes to fall to three-under.

Bjorn got back into the mix with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole, and he was one shot behind with four to play.

Singh looked as frustrated as ever.

Trying to join Woods as the only back-to-back PGA champions in the stroke-play era, he too saw his ball horseshoe around the cup and out as he made double bogey on the third hole and three-putted down the steep ridge on the par-three fourth to lose ground quickly.

The 42-year-old Fijian made one birdie from three feet on number eight, but saw a half-dozen other chances slide 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 a three-man play-off.

Somehow, Love too was still part of the equation.

He also dropped four shots in five holes early in his round, and to his surprise Mickelson and Elkington came back to him. He was in the last group with Mickelson, and will have four full holes to change his fortunes.

Overnight rain could take some of the fire out of Baltusrol, allowing players to attack the flags. But it also will make it tough for Mickelson, Love and Singh to reach the par-five 17th at 650 yards.

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

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