Retief Goosen, the 2001 US Open Champion, ended a prolonged second round in the US PGA Championship, in a tie for the lead at Hazeltine National Golf Club with four Americans on 138, six under par, after the electrical storms which forced a suspension on Friday night caused play to be delayed for a further one and three-quarters hours on Saturday morning.
The 33 year old South African, who returned at first light on Friday to complete the final four holes of his first round 69, went on to repeat the score later in the day and he shares the halfway lead with the American quarter of Rich Beem, Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Funk and Justin Leonard.
Funk, 46, was out on his own with five holes to play after the storms struck, causing three inches of rain to fall on Hazeltine and necessitating a major clear-up operation early on Saturday morning. Play eventually resumed at 9.15am with high winds whipping across the course in scenes reminiscent of Muirfield last month.
Funk carded two bogeys and a birdie over his closing stretch for a round of 70, to go into the third round as one of the leaders. Justin Rose of England, who had shot a 69 in the first round but dropped back to one under when play was halted, picked up a birdie at the seventh (his 16th) to finish tied 12th on 142, two under.
Rose was one of 19 European Tour Members to make the cut, with Sweden’s Ryder Cup rookie, Pierre Fulke, leading the way in a tie for sixth place with World Number One, Tiger Woods, who birdied the 18th for a round of 69 and a total of 140.
Woods, by his own admission, played one of the best shots of his extraordinary career at the last, standing outside a bunker and smashing a three iron from the sand and over trees to 12 feet to set up the birdie chance. He said: "That shot is right up there with the best of them."
Meanwhile Goosen, the 2001 Volvo Order of Merit winner, had looked far from leader material when an untidy outward half saw him to the turn in one over par 37. But, turning for home, Goosen began to remind the American galleries of the form which saw him lift the 2001 US Open Championship at Southern Hills Country Club.
Birdies at the tenth and 11th were followed by another at the 15th before the South African left another birdie effort tantalisingly on the edge of the hole at the 17th. But Goosen was not to be denied a grandstand finish, bringing the crowds to their feet with an exquisite pitch from deep rough at the back of the 18th green which rolled 25 feet before dropping into the cup.
“I like the course,” said Goosen. “The par fives are out of reach for most people but the par fours are not too demanding like they were at Bethpage, so I think it has given a lot of people a chance.
“As for me, I started playing well in the last round of the Buick last week which gave me confidence and gave me a good feeling coming into this week. I feel rested. I took a week off before last week and I feel I am ready to go out there and play good golf again.”
The last European Tour Member to win the US PGA Championship was Vijay Singh at Sahalee in 1998 and Goosen was backed up his quest to emulate the Fijian by several other European Tour Members among the higher echelons of the leaderboard.
Leading the way on four under par was Fulke, who followed up his opening 72 with an excellent second round 68, the highlight coming at his final hole, the ninth, where the Swede rolled in an audacious birdie putt from 60 feet right across the putting surface.
"To be honest I was just trying to two putt because it was slightly downhill and a bit of a slippy putt but when it was nearing the hole I knew it was in," said Fulke.
"I had no bogeys in my round which is always pleasing but I had to scramble a little bit in the middle phase but to come through it was pleasing - my putter was working well."
Following on two under par 142 were Søren Hansen (69), Bernhard Langer (72), Peter Lonard (73) , and Adam Scott (71).
One shot behind on one under par 143 was New Zealander Michael Campbell, while Ireland's Padraig Harrington reached the halfway stage of the final Major of the season at level par following a 73.
Of the American trio who shared pole position with Goosen, best scores came from Beem, winner of The International on the US PGA Tour a fortnight ago, and 1997 Open Champion Leonard who both carded 66s, while Calcavecchia, the 1989 Open Champion, returned a 68.
To be honest my long game hasn’t been as good this week as it was when I won The International but my short game has saved me,” said Beem. “In fact my putting has really saved me so far, and I hope it can continue to do so over the weekend.”
Leonard said: “The key for me today was my good start. I made good pars at the first two holes and then birdied the third and fourth. That settled me down and gave me the feeling that I could go on to be aggressive for the rest of the round.”
Calcavecchia put his prominence down to some hard work on the range. “I think it is fair to say I have practiced more for this week than I have ever done and I think you can see that it is paying off.”
For the second day running, the tournament was interrupted by lightning storms in the Minnesota area, play suspended at 6.25pm local time in America with almost a quarter of the field still to finish.
Players in the third round will go out in three balls from two tees in a bid to catch up on time lost due to the inlement weather.