Storm swamps Tiger's charge as Woodland leads rain-hit PGA

St. Louis (AFP) –


Tiger Woods ran off three birdies in four holes Friday before thunderstorms halted his fightback and suspended the second round of the 100th PGA Championship with Gary Woodland clinging to a one-stroke lead.

A Bellerive Country Club course that had earlier flirted with surrendering the lowest rounds in major golf history was soaked by showers, leaving a tantalyzing prospect for 14-time major champion Woods as half the field of 156 that resumes play Saturday morning.

"I felt I was headed in the right direction," Woods said. "Tomorrow is going to be a long day for a lot of us. The good thing is we're going to have the greens prepared before we go back out there."

Competition will resume at 7 p.m. (1200 GMT) with about 3 1/2 hours of play to complete before making the cut. Organizers said the third round will be played in threesomes and off the first and 10th tees starting 30 minutes after the second round ends.

Woodland fired a four-under par 66 to lead on 10-under 130, one stroke ahead of British Open runner-up Kevin Kisner with two-time US Open champion Brooks Koepka third on 132. Top-ranked Dustin Johnson, South African Charl Schwartzel and Belgium's Thomas Pieters were on 133.

"I feel safe where my game is," Woodland said. "I'm not too worried with what anyone else is doing out there."

Koepka, Kisner and Schwartzel thrilled the crowd by chasing the all-time record low men's major score of 62 set by South African Branden Grace in the third round at the 2017 British Open at par-70 Royal Birkdale.

Schwartzel and Koepka settled for 63s, matching the tournament record with the first same-day 63s in the event's 100-year history, while Kisner shot 64.

"I'm all right with it," Kisner said. "I knew I was playing well and had made a few birdies. I like my position going into the weekend."

Woods, a 14-time major champion in the eighth month of his comeback from spinal fusion surgery, was 3-under after seven holes. Only two rounds still on the course were better and those were from players further off the pace than the 42-year-old former world number one.

Woods sank a 14-foot birdie putt on the second hole, a five-footer for birdie at the par-3 third and a 10-foot birdie putt at the fifth. At the par-3 sixth he blasted out to 14 feet and sank the clutch par putt, then parred seven before the storm struck.

- Three near-misses for 62 -

Koepka, who started on the back nine, birdied the par-5 eighth and had a 20-foot birdie putt at the ninth for 62 but rolled it three feet past and made the comeback to shoot 63.

"I didn't know," Koepka said. "I was just trying to make the thing. I thought I had made it. Sometimes you are in your own mind and don't know where you are at."

Koepka defended his US Open crown in June, the first back-to-back US Open winner since Curtis Strange in 1988-89.

Kisner, who also began off the 10th tee, sank a six-foot birdie putt at the seventh to reach 7-under. But he found a bunker and parred the par-5 eighth then chipped 23 feet past the hole a nine and two-putted for bogey.

Kisner birdied six of the first nine holes but opened his second nine with six pars.

"Couldn't have asked for a better start. I was throwing darts at it," Kisner said. "I hit it well on the second nine. I just didn't make any putts."

Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters winner, didn't threaten the lead with his 62 bid but sank a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th to reach 7-under. He found a fairway bunker and parred the par-5 17th then left a 49-foot birdie putt five feet short ahead of a par at 18.

On the prospect of a 62 he said: "I didn't know there was that. I would have liked to have birdied 17."

- Rolling rock really well -

Woodland eagled the par-5 17th after his second shot landed five feet from the cup, then birdied the second and third and answered a bogey stumble at four with a 25-foot birdie putt at the eighth -- all as Kisner watched.

"He's rolling the rock and really striping it," Kisner said. "We're going to have a pretty good battle if I can keep up with him."

Woodland has never finished better than 12th in 27 major starts but he has never started so well in one either.

"I'm very happy with where I'm at," he said. "When I stand over a golf ball putting as comfortable as I am right now, I'm pretty excited."

Eighth-ranked Jordan Spieth can complete a career Grand Slam with a victory this week, but the 25-year-old American shot 67 to stand on 137.