Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler led by one stroke when Saturday’s third round of the Tour Championship was suspended until Sunday due to lightning.
Xander Schauffele was only one shot adrift when the last 14 players on the course were halted, setting up a tense last-day drama in the PGA’s season-ending showdown at East Lake in Atlanta.
Scheffler paced the 29-player field at 19 under par through 12 holes with playing partner and fellow American Schauffele on 18 under.
“With a 72-hole event I think it’s still pretty early in the tournament,” Scheffler said. “We’re all just kind of jockeying for position and I was just out there trying to hit some quality shots.”
South Korean Im Sung-jae was third on 16-under with four holes remaining, while four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland was fourth on 15 under and five under on the day through 16 holes.
Scheffler began the tournament with a four-stroke edge on Schauffele thanks to a staggered-start scoring system based on season point totals, but Schauffele had trimmed that edge to two strokes after 36 holes.
After lightning caused a 58-minute delay in tee times before leaders teed off, Schauffele made a charge.
He sank a birdie putt from just outside 12 feet at the par-three 2nd hole and another from just past four feet at the 3rd to match Scheffler for the lead at 19 under.
Schauffele paid the price for missing fairways with bogeys at the 4th and 5th holes, only to birdie the 6th and 7th – the latter on a 33-foot putt – to again equal Scheffler.
After seven pars, Scheffler holed a 12-foot birdie putt at the 8th to pull one stroke ahead and both leaders made bogeys at the par-three 11th after landing in bunkers, leaving Scheffler ahead when play was stopped.
“I wasn’t playing my best, but I was kind of hanging in there,” Scheffler said. “I was looking forward to giving myself some opportunities at the end, but then the horn went off.”
Play was set to resume Sunday morning with leaders teeing off in the final round in the early afternoon.
The staggered scoring system means whoever fires the week’s low 72-hole total will not necessarily win the $18-million top prize on offer from the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Scheffler, who hadn’t taken a PGA Tour title when the year began, won four in two months capped by his first Major title at Augusta National in April. He could complete an amazing season by capturing the playoff crown.
American Justin Thomas, this year’s PGA Championship winner, has a two-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to match McIlroy on 15 under when play resumes.
© Agence France-Presse