Two Pauls, Lawrie and McGinley, shared the leaderboard honours in the third round of the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns but, as with the first two days of the inaugural tournament, the Scottish weather again wreaked havoc with the event.
Rain, mist and poor visibility disrupted play to such an extent that none of the 156 professionals on any of the three courses were able to complete 18 holes. Lawrie was the more disappointed of the leading duo to have to stop, for he had stormed to the head of affairs thanks to covering 12 holes on the Old Course at St Andrews in remarkable figures of eight under par.
McGinley’s progress on the Championship Course at Carnoustie was more sedate but nevertheless immaculately controlled in the conditions, the 34 year old Irishman carding 11 straight pars to remain at the 13 under par figure he started the day - thanks to opening rounds of 67 at Kingsbarns and 64 at St Andrews.
When the dismal conditions eventually brought play at all three venues to a halt around 5.30pm, the leading pair were three shots clear of a group of four players on ten under par, Brian Davis, David Howell and Peter O’Malley through nine, 11 and nine holes respectively at Carnoustie while Ernie Els joined them on the figure through eight holes at St Andrews.
The weather produced a contingency headache the tournament organisers could have done without but they acted swiftly to produce a timetable which would ensure the event reached its proposed 72 hole conclusion, the crucial decision being to extend the tournament into Monday.
The third round will be restarted at 9.00am on Sunday and completed before the top 60 professionals and leading 20 amateur teams begin the fourth and final round on the Old Course at St Andrews in the afternoon. It means that the tournament will have no alternative but to run to a fifth day, with the fourth round being concluded on Monday.
It was a tough day all round for the 156 professionals and their gallant amateur partners. At St Andrews, play officially started at 11.15am, although some players went out earlier to complete their second rounds. Heavy rain, however, caused another suspension at 12.15pm and they restarted at 3.00pm.
At Carnoustie, play began at 11.30am because of poor visibility, fog and rain. But, at 12.45pm, play was suspended because of heavy rain. It eventually resumed at 2.15pm.
At Kingsbarns, some players were able to complete their second rounds after teeing off at 8am, but play was soon suspended because of fog and rain until 10.30am. Play then restarted, but at 12.15pm was suspended again due to heavy rain. It resumed at 3pm.
In such unsettling stop-start conditions, concentration is put to the test but it was an examination McGinley passed with flying colours with near flawless golf. After eight straight pars, the 34 year old Dubliner fired an excellent approach to ten feet at the ninth but saw his birdie effort slide past the cup.
He parred the tough 466 yard tenth hole and had another chance for birdie at the 383 yard 11th but his curling eight footer again stayed above ground.
But the move of the day was made by Lawrie who brushed aside the dismal conditions to produce sparkling golf. The 1999 Open champion birdied five of the first six holes before rolling in a monsterous 45 foot effort for another birdie on the short eighth.
It left the 32 year old Scot with a 15 foot putt on the ninth green to be out in 29 and although he missed it, Lawrie was quickly back on the birdie trail turning for home, finding the bottom of the cup on the 379 yard tenth hole, this time from 30 feet, before repeating the feat at the 12th to move into a share of the lead.
Of the quartet in a tie for third place, the best golf was played by Peter O’Malley, who won the Compass Group English Open at Marriott Forest of Arden in June and who produced similar form, birdieing the first and eighth at Carnoustie, as well as eagling the 578 yard sixth.