Ben Curits will need solid putting to tame Oakland Hills tough greens.
Fred Vuich/SI
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Ben Curtis shot a two-under-par 68 to take a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the 90th PGA Championship on Sunday morning.

Henrik Stenson (68) and 36-hole leader J.B. Holmes (70) were a shot back at one under and will join Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion, in the final threesome. They are scheduled to tee off at 2:10 p.m. EST. The forecast calls for isolated thunderstorms.

With softer conditions several players made a move in the morning, led by two-time British Open champion Padraig Harrington's 66, which included a bogey on the 18th hole.

"Right at this moment, it's disappointing," Harrington said of his round, which got him to one over par for the tournament, well within sight of his first major title in the U.S.

He will join Sergio Garcia (69, one over) and Charlie Wi (71, one over) in the second-to-last threesome Sunday afternoon. All are just two off the lead.

Thunderstorms forced officials to stop play at 2:16 p.m. Saturday, and ultimately, to cancel the third round with the final three pairings yet to tee off. That forced a mass start at 7:15 a.m. Sunday, which brought crisp, fall-like conditions.

The contenders were scheduled to play anywhere from 31 (Phil Mickelson) to 36 holes (Holmes, Wi, Justin Rose, Curtis, David Toms and Stenson), and the day was rife with possibilities. By 8 a.m. Sunday, 18 men were within three shots of the lead.

Conventional wisdom was that seasoned veterans like Garcia, Harrington and Mickelson would rise to the top, while relative neophytes Holmes (eighth major) and Wi (first), playing in the final pairing, would fade, if not give a clinic in synchronized diving.

Conventional wisdom was wrong. Although Harrington birdied four-straight holes on the back nine, getting onto the first page of the leaderboard, Mickelson never got anything going. He bogeyed 10 and 11, failed to birdie the par-5 12th hole and finished with a lackluster 71 to go plus four. He was one of only three players of the 15 on the first page of the leaderboard who had yet to record a single round under par.

Not so for Garcia, who was hanging around within striking distance thanks to a two-under 33 on the front nine and, despite a bogey at the last, a 69 — good for plus one overall.

"I was happy to birdie 17 and it would have been nice to par the last," he said, "but we're still in a pretty decent position."

Wi birdied the first hole, Curtis birdied the first two holes and Holmes eagled the par-5 second. So much for nerves. It seemed that simply hanging around at par or a few shots over par might not be good enough.

"They are a lot easier," Harrington said of the conditions. "The greens are soft."

Around the time Harrington was speaking to the press, Rose, still seeking his first victory in the U.S. and his first major, triple-bogeyed the par-4 11th hole to go from one under to two over, plummeting down the board. He shot 74 and finished at four over.

Stenson made a nifty birdie on 18, which became a two-shot swing when Curtis and then Holmes bogeyed it.

Wi made a 15-foot par putt on 18 to join Garcia and Harrington in the penultimate trio at one over, with Romero (two over after completing his 65 Saturday), Jeev Milkha Singh (70, two over par total) and Camilo Villegas (67, three over) in the third to last group.

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