All it took was one record-tying round and several claps of thunder for Oakland Hills to finally look vulnerable Saturday in the PGA Championship.
Andres Romero kept his calm and played a third round he
described as "almost perfect" in making seven birdies to become
only the seventh player to shoot 5-under 65 in a major at Oakland
Then came Mother Nature, who really brought "The Monster" to
Thunderstorms swamped the golf course before 36-hole leader J.B.
Holmes and five guys chasing him could even tee off. More than four
hours later, the PGA of America told everyone to return Sunday for
what could be the first 36-hole final at a major in nearly 30
"It will be like college again - playing 36 in one day,"
Holmes said. "It happens, and everyone else has to do it, too. So
we just have to go out there and deal with it. They've got 12 hours
to work on the golf course, and it needed the rain.
"We'll see what it looks like tomorrow."
The rain could reshape the character of the final major. Holmes
was at 1-under 139, the only player to beat par over two days, but
so much rain was sure to take the fire out of the Donald Ross
greens that had made players be on the defensive.
"I think it is fair to say they will be significantly more
receptive," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA official in charge of
setting up the course.
Former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera ripped a 3-wood down the
first fairway when the round was suspended at 2:16 p.m. Hours
later, as he looked toward more dark clouds to the north, he
contemplated a marathon Sunday.
"It will be easier," Cabrera said. "There is justice."
Romero made it look easier even before the storm clouds
gathered. The PGA helped slightly by pouring extra water on the
greens overnight and trimming some of the rough in the landing
But the 27-year-old Argentine did his part.
Romero first showed his explosive style last year at Carnoustie,
where he made 10 birdies in 16 holes during the final round of the
British Open and finished one shot out of a playoff. He was firing
away at Oakland Hills, hitting a 3-iron to 6 feet on the par-3
ninth and making his final birdie with an 8-iron to 6 feet from a
scary pin on the 16th.
"I played an excellent round," Romero said through his
interpreter, Marcos Virasoro. "Almost perfect. Yesterday, I
finished very mad with my round and now after this 18 holes, I
can't believe it. I will have a chance for tomorrow. I have to
wait, but it's great to be here."
He was at 2-over 212, and had no idea just how long he would
have to wait to see where it stacked up.
The good news? He can get some rest. The third round was to
resume at 7:15 a.m. Sunday with six players facing 36 holes, while
Romero won't have to show up until noon and play only 18.
The last major champion to play 36 holes on the final day was
Seve Ballesteros in the 1979 British Open, the last year that major
played the final two rounds on a Saturday. Tiger Woods played 27
holes on Sunday when he won the rain-delayed Masters in 2005.
Romero was among 25 players from the 73-man field who completed
their rounds Saturday.
Camilo Villegas of Colombia - maybe they should call this course
"El Monstro" this week - was at 4 under for the day through 14
holes and was 2 over for the tournament. Another shot behind were
Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, who was 3 under for his round and in
the bunker next to the 18th green; and Graeme McDowell of Northern
Ireland, who also was 3 under for the day through 16 holes.
Steve Flesch was doing the best in his All-Lefty pairing with
Phil Mickelson. Flesch, who had a chance at the Masters this year,
rolled in a 20-foot putt and was 2 under for his round - 1 over for
the tournament - through five holes.
Mickelson was at 3 over, but had an 8-foot eagle putt on No. 6
when play was stopped.
Sergio Garcia, still considered a big favorite as cleanly as he
hits the ball, made par on the first hole and faces 35 more on
"I guess the course is going to change quite a bit," Garcia
said. "It's still going to be playing difficult, but probably not
to the extreme it was playing the last couple of days."
Romero was amazed to even have a chance. After completing a 69
in the first round on Friday morning, he lost his composure later
in the second round when his 8-iron to the 16th spun down a slope
into the water, and his subsequent lob wedge from the drop area did
the same thing. He wound up with a quadruple-bogey 8, and he lost
"I couldn't come back after that 8," Romero said. "I made a
double bogey at the 18th because I was so mad. I was almost
fighting for the lead, and suddenly I was trying to make the cut.
So I was going mad the rest of the whole round."
During his blazing birdie run at Carnoustie, he made two double
bogeys on the back nine and kept his cool. What was the difference?
"Those were bad shots," he said.
As he was discussing his birdies and bogeys, this is how Romero
described losing a shot on the par-3 third Saturday.
"The approach wasn't that good," he said. "But I didn't get
mad. That was good."
Rain began pelting the press tent as he spoke, causing him to
look up and smile. Someone asked if the thunder was a sign that the
golfing gods were angry at someone shooting 65 on The Monster.
Romero simply smiled and walked back to the clubhouse for lunch.