The 2004 Senior PGA Championship
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Leader Hale Irwin is carried through the darkness to the 9th tee Saturday night. ( / Montana Pritchard)

Irwin leads midway through third round of Senior PGA

Saturday was moving day in a big way at Valhalla, as the Senior PGA Championship made up lots of ground in its quest to overcome the weather delays of the first two days. At nightfall, midway through the third round, Hale Irwin, at 6-under through eight holes, holds a one-shot lead over Dave Barr, who is 5-under through nine holes. Play is set to resume at 8:15 a.m., with the final round scheduled to tee off at 9:25 a.m. as the event hopes to finish up on time.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Saturday was moving day in a big way at Valhalla, as the Senior PGA Championship made up lots of ground in its quest to overcome the weather delays of the first two days. The oldest and most prestigious major in senior golf made it all the way to the middle of the third round at nightfall Saturday, and should finish on Sunday as long as the weather cooperates.

The third round is scheduled to resume at 8:15 a.m., with the players set to tee off in the final round in threesomes off both the first and 10th tees beginning at 9:25 a.m. The field will not be re-paired for the final round, meaning that Hale Irwin, Wayne Levi and John Harris will be the final group with Gil Morgan, Jay Haas and Dave Barr in the second-to-last group.

When play was halted by darkness Saturday, the 58-year-old Irwin held a one-shot lead over Barr, with Irwin at 6-under through eight holes and Barr 5-under through nine. Irwin was even-par so far in his third round, while Barr was 2-under.

Third place was a five-man logjam at 4-under featuring Jay Haas (through nine), Wayne Levi (through nine), Gil Morgan (through nine), Tom Watson (through eight) and John Harris (through eight). Craig Stadler was alone in eighth place at 3-under through nine holes, while Fuzzy Zoeller, Walter Hall and Tom Jenkins were tied for ninth place at 3-under.

Earlier on Saturday, Irwin reeled off four straight birdies and surged to a one-shot lead after two complete rounds at the flood-delayed event.

Irwin shot a 69 and was at 6-under 136, one stroke ahead of Harris and Levi. Morgan and Haas were at 4-under and Barr and Watson were three off the lead when the third round began late Saturday afternoon.

Irwin was one of 72 golfers who finished their first rounds Thursday, then sat out Friday because of a flood delay triggered by more than an inch of overnight rain. But bright sunshine and warm temperatures bathed the course Saturday.

Irwin started his second round on No. 10 and bogeyed the par-3 11th after dumping his tee shot in a bunker. He also bogeyed 13 and 16 before a birdie at the par-5 18th.

Irwin started his birdie streak at the 199-yard third hole, nearly acing it with a 4-iron. He added 10-foot birdie putts at Nos. 4 and 5, then finished the run with a 14-footer at the par-4 sixth.

"I look back at my round and there were a lot of good shots and a lot of 'whoops!' shots," said Irwin, who won three straight Senior PGAs between 1996-98. He finished the round with a bogey at the ninth, blaming a bad 6-iron approach on the wet course conditions.

"It was not a bad shot, it just had a big glob of mud on it and it took a big dogleg left once I hit it," said Irwin, who turns 59 on June 3.

Levi led the tournament at 6-under when second-round play was suspended at 8:44 p.m. EDT Friday due to darkness.

He had seven holes left Saturday morning and made bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7. He recovered with a birdie on the par-3 No. 8 and parred No. 9 to post a second-round 68.

"Coming out here first thing this morning, there was a lot of dew on the grass and the air was heavy," Levi said. "The ball didn't carry very well, but I managed to get around it OK."

Harris quietly moved up the leaderboard Saturday morning, capping a 67 with birdies on two of his last three holes.

"It was a pretty good way to finish," Harris said. "I had a fun day."

Morgan bogeyed the second hole of his restarted round, the par-3 11th. He birdied the 14th and finished with four pars for a two-round 138.

Watson, like Irwin, didn't play on Friday. He opened his second round with birdies on three of his first five holes to take the lead at 7 under. He hooked his drive on the par-4 6th, which led to a double bogey.

Watson began tinkering with his swing on the practice range Thursday. The adjustments that worked in the first round began to fail Saturday, he said.

"My golf swing is a little bit loose right now," Watson said. "The timing is not quite there. I still believe what I'm doing is the right thing."

Watson pushed a drive into the right rough on 12 and bogeyed, then dunked his approach to the island green at the par-4 13th into a creek and made a 6.

He birdied the 14th, but bogeyed the 16th for a 72.

"I made three or four bad swings and they all cost me," Watson said.

The cut was set at 7-over Saturday afternoon, leaving 75 players in the field. Among the prominent players missing the cut were Jim Colbert, Bruce Fleisher, Bruce Lietzke, John Mahaffey, Gary Player, Rick Rhoden, Dave Stockton and Jim Thorpe.

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