The 2004 Senior PGA Championship
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Overnight leader Wayne Levi celebrates after a birdie putt ( / Montana Pritchard)

Proven champs fight their way to the front at Valhalla

Champions often prevail because they handle adversity better than their competitors, and one look at the leaderboard in the Senior PGA Championship proves it. Wayne Levi, Jay Haas, Gil Morgan, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson and Craig Stadler all fought their way into the top 10 by the time second-round play was halted by darkness Friday night.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Champions often prevail because they handle adversity better than those competitors they overcome, and one look at the leaderboard at the suspension of play Friday night in the 65th Senior PGA Championship proves it.

Wayne Levi, Jay Haas, Gil Morgan, Hale Irwin, Tom Watson and Craig Stadler all fought their way into the top 10 by the time second-round play was halted by darkness midway through the second round on a long day at Valhalla Golf Club in which about five and a half hours of golf were completed.

Play will resume early Saturday with the field hoping to finish the second round - some of the players have yet to tee off in the second round, and the those the farthest along are making their way down the back nine - and get as deep into the third round as possible by nightfall. The weather forecast for Saturday is promising, but gets a little dicey again for Sunday.

At nightfall Friday, Levi held the lead at 6-under through 11 holes of his second round. He `was one shot ahead of Gil Morgan, who was at 5-under through nine holes, with a two-way tie for third at 4-under between past Senior PGA champs Tom Watson and Hale Irwin, neither of whom has teed off in the second round yet.

Tom Jenkins, Jay Haas and Mark James are in a three-way tie for fifth place at 3-under. Jenkins has played 11 holes, while Haas has played nine and James has completed seven holes.

Among the leading players, along with Irwin and Watson, yet to tee off in the second round are Mike McCullough (2-under) and Mark McNulty, Tom Strueber, Doug Tewell and Bobby Walzel (all at 1-under). Allen Doyle, Gary Koch and Bobby Wadkins (all at even par) also have yet to tee off.

The 72 players who completed their first rounds on Friday immediately started their second rounds as the conditions improved dramatically Friday afternoon as a cold front moved out of the Louisville area. First-round play resumed only at 4:30 p.m. ET, while those who completed their first rounds began their second rounds at 5:45 p.m. ET.

Haas and Morgan needed only three holes to move into a tie for the lead soon after play resumed on Friday. Haas and Morgan wrapped up 4-under 67s late in the afternoon, tying Irwin and Watson, who played early on Thursday.

Haas and Morgan were both on No. 7, a par 5, when the first round was stopped because of rain. When play resumed, Morgan lofted a pitch from the rough right of the green to 6 feet and made the putt to join the leaders at 4-under.

He made a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 8, then bogeyed 9.

"I made the one error on the last hole," Morgan said. "Other than that, I kept it in play fairly well."

Haas, a PGA Tour regular making his senior circuit debut, was playing in the group behind Morgan. He reached the 586-yard 7th in two and two-putted, then knocked an 8-iron within a foot on the 166-yard 8th. He parred 9 to make a foursome at 4-under.

"Overall, I can't be more pleased," said Haas, who has four top-10 finishes on the regular tour this year.

The PGA of America originally set 7:30 a.m. restarts Friday for the players whose opening rounds were suspended.

The time was moved back after a violent storm overnight sent Floyd's Fork, the creek that runs through the course, spilling over its banks. Several fairways flooded and grassy parking lots turned into mud pits.

Haas arrived at the course at 6 a.m. Friday, left, came back at 10 a.m. and then waited out the delay.

"I ate several times, I did a crossword puzzle, I worked out," said Haas, who turned 50 in December. "It went pretty slowly, but I had enough buddies in there. We made the best of it."

Irwin and Watson were among 78 players whose second rounds were postponed until Saturday.

Heavy rain has hampered the tournament since Wednesday afternoon, when a thunderstorm postponed practice rounds.

Course superintendent Mark Wilson said the course has absorbed more than 5 inches of rain this week, but the playing areas have sustained no serious damage.

However, on Friday morning, many spectator areas and tents were swamped and some television satellite trucks were surrounded by water in a low-lying parking area. Divers tied ropes to flooded cars for a tow truck to pull them out.

Kerry Haigh, the PGA's managing director of tournaments, said the PGA wanted to avoid cutting the tournament to 54 holes and would finish the tournament Monday, if necessary.

"This is a major championship and we intend to play 72 holes," Haigh said.

The 2000 Senior PGA Championship, played at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was shortened to 54 holes after seven storm delays.

The weather problems played a role in several withdrawals from the event. Among those bowing out early were Jack Fleck, Bob Murphy, Andy North, Arnold Palmer and Doug Sanders.

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