First came the black cloud that has been following Tiger Woods on the weekend at the majors. The real storm showed up a short time later Saturday in the PGA Championship, halting the brilliant start by Rory McIlroy and giving Woods a chance to stop his slide at Kiawah Island.
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McIlroy opened with three birdies and two par saves, none bigger than on the third hole when his tee shot lodged in a thick tree limb that was rotting about 7 feet off the ground. He reached up to remove the ball, took a penalty drop and made a 6-foot par putt to continue on his way.
It all looked so easy for McIlroy, who was at 6-under par through nine holes and tied for the lead with Vijay Singh when the third round was suspended.
"Just great position going into tomorrow, and that’s all I can really ask for, so happy with where I am," McIlroy said.
For Woods, it was a grind on another windswept day at Kiawah Island.
He failed to birdie the par-5 second hole, and then badly missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the next hole. He hit a spectator with a fairway metal off the tee at the fourth, pulled a shot into the mounds short of the par-5 fifth hole and made yet another bogey on the par-5 seventh with two poor shots to the right, a wedge over the green into a waste area and another missed putt.
He made everything Friday to take a share of the 36-hole lead. He made nothing Saturday. Woods already was five shots behind and facing a 6-foot par putt on the eighth hole when the siren sounded to stop play. He was at 1 under.
"I got off to a rough start today and couldn’t get anything going," Woods said through a spokesman. "I’ll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play."
The wind eased as dark clouds gathered over The Ocean Course, and rain poured down on this barrier island about an hour later. The 26 players who didn’t finish the round will return Sunday morning. The final round was to be played in threesomes of both tees, rare for a major championship.
Woods was about the only player going the wrong direction.
Singh, the 49-year-old who has not been in contention at a major in six years, opened with a 15-foot birdie putt and made a strong recovery from trouble on the par-5 seventh by making a 25-foot putt to join McIlroy atop the leaderboard.
Right behind was Adam Scott, showing no signs so far of a British Open hangover.
Scott blew a four-shot lead with four holes to play last month at Royal Lytham & St. Annes a month ago by closing with four straight bogeys. He came to life toward the end of his front nine Saturday four birdies in a five-hole stretch, capped by a 45-foot birdie putt on the ninth.
Scott was at 5-under par. Carl Pettersson, tied with Woods and Singh at the start of the round, was at 4 under through eight holes.
This was the second time this year Woods had a share of the 36-hole lead going into weekend at the majors. He has not broken par in his previous six weekend rounds, including a 75-73 finish at Olympic Club to go from a tie for the lead to a tie for 21st in the US Open.
Stopping play might be the best thing that happened to him — and a tough break for Bo Van Pelt and Steve Stricker, each of whom shot 67 earlier Saturday to climb up the leaderboard as the wind gained strength.
"You never know what the weather will be like when they go back out," said Van Pelt, the clubhouse leader at 3-under 213. "So they might get the good end of it or the bad end of it. To me, just glad to be done. I did what I could do, and I’m sure before I go to bed tonight I’ll know kind of where I stand going into tomorrow."
It’s the first time since 2008 that the PGA Championship didn’t complete three rounds on Saturday. Some players had to go 36 holes on the final day that year, and Padraig Harrington wound up winning his second straight major.
"Unfortunately, the weather gods turned against us today," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s managing director of championships.
Harrington might be in the picture again, depending on how the rest of the field fares Sunday morning. He was 4 under on his round until a double bogey on the 10th hole, though that was his only big mistakes and he wound up with a 69. Harrington was at 1-under 215.
"I would rather it just stayed the way it was," Harrington said about the weather. "Who knows what’s going to happen now? … It could be a good break, but it could be a bad break. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out. But would have settled for the guys to play the same conditions we played and have them play the back nine in the wind, because the back nine was a lot tougher than the front nine."
McIlroy opened with a 15-foot birdie putt, followed with a long two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, and then the adventure began. His tee shot dropped out of the sky and into a crevice in the thick limb that appeared to be dying.
"I know the line of the ball was right on the tree," McIlroy said. "We’d been looking for it for maybe about three minutes and then one of the guys that was working for TV came over and said, `You know, it’s actually stuck in the tree.’ I’m like, `How can it be stuck in this thing? There’s no branches, no leaves for it to be stuck in. But it had wedged itself in between the tree bark and the actual tree.
"I was just happy to get it up-and-down for 4 and move on to the next," McIlroy said.
The next hole was just as good, though not as dramatic, when he holed a 15-foot putt for par, and then he hit his tee shot to about 5 feet on the par-3 fifth hole.
Stricker, trying to earn his way onto the Ryder Cup team, brought a chance at his first major championship into the picture when he ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch around the turn before missing a short putt on the 13th for his lone bogey. He was at 2-under 212.
The storms came at a good time for Woods, who looked out of sorts for the two hours he was on the course. He muffed a difficult chip from well beyond the fourth green and had to make a 4-foot putt to escape with bogey. The real mess came at the par-5 seventh, when he leaked his tee shot just into a waste area, and hit that into the rough on the right. From there, his third shot sailed over the green into another waste area, and he blasted out to about 12 feet.
His shoulders sagged watching the flight of his tee shot to the par-3 eighth, realizing the wind wound push it down the steep bank and force him to scramble again. Before he could line up his putt, it was time to go in and escape the approaching storms. And for Woods, it was time to regroup.