By Marino Parascenzo, Special to PGA.com
LIGONIER, Pa. -- The way the Senior PGA is shaping up -- if the storms will ever let it -- it's going to be an odd three-man chase, with the old tortoise-and-hare thing, and a former thoroughbred trying to regain his fancy stepping.
The cast is an odd mix. The thoroughbred is Jerry Pate, who won the 1976 U.S. Open as a rookie, then hurt his shoulder, and now seems to be making a comeback.
Mild-mannered Mike Reid is the tortoise. He said "turtle." He's good with the fables, not so hot with the zoology.
And then there's the hare, the Champions Tour resident iron man, Dana Quigley, owner of 259 straight starts, and counting.
They were tied for the lead at 5-under-par with most of the back nine to complete Sunday morning after yet another storm forced the suspension of Saturday's third round at 6:30 p.m. ET. Quigley had seven holes to play, Pate and Reid eight each. They'll resume play at 8:15 a.m. ET Sunday. The 38 who have finished the third round will start the fourth at 6:55 a.m. ET
Guys who might have been expected to be leading senior golf's oldest and most prestigious event were struggling behind them.
Ray Floyd was at 4 under with six to play, and Peter Jacobsen 3 under, with seven holes to play. Larry Nelson was 1 over through the 12th. Defending champion Hale Irwin would need a miracle to in his second straight Senior PGA and fifth overall. He went out in 39 and was 11 shots behind with four to play. And Curtis Strange, who was stirring until he caught a bunker at the 18th on Friday then found the water with a 7-iron, shot 77 Saturday and was out of it completely at 10 over.
Strange had eagled the 18th in the first round, and then seemed to commit suicide trying to go from a steep downhill lie in a fairway bunker across the water for the green. Strange caught a ton of sand, the ball skidded into the pond, and he double-bogeyed. But why did he even try?
"I sure wasn't going to lay up," he said. "I was already over par. I had 120 yards. If I got the ball in the air, it would be on the green. But I knew I had to clear the hosel and I just flat cold-topped it."
With Laurel Valley playing long and heavy, any lead looks strong. Chances for a hot charge from anyone do not seem good.
Pate started the third round with a one-shot lead, birdied No. 1 from 10 feet, and was looking comfy. Then after five holes of nothing but good, solid shots, his layup 6-iron at the par-5 6th went zipping left for the trees.
"And I said, 'Ooops, where did that come from,'" Pate said. He bogeyed there, and bogeyed the par-3 eighth after a poor chip from the collar, and so he had company.
Mike Reid, slender and soft-spoken, birdied No. 1 with a 10-foot putt, took no particular thrill or inspiration from that start, and patiently parred his way through the 10th when play was called. Someone wondered why the opening birdie didn't charge him up.
"My game wouldn't be Arnold Palmer's or Lanny Wadkins'," Reid said. "Some players are rabbits, some are hares and some are turtles. I guess I'm just a turtle."
He'd just bogeyed the fable, but the sentiment was the same.
Quigley, definitely the hare -- in fact, a powerhouse -- is the guy who keeps thinking he doesn't belong on the fast track, but having been convinced of his worthiness by golf shrink Bob Rotella, he keeps trying to prove -- to himself -- that he does. After those 259 straight starts, nine victories and more than $11 million in winnings, he's still not quite sure.
"I keep pinching myself," he said.
He was biting his tongue early on Saturday. He three-putted No. 2 from 45 feet for his only bogey of the day and his fifth of the tournament. He got the shot back at No. 3, with a wedge to 4 feet and a crisp putt for a birdie. "That got me out of the oh-woe-is-me deal," he said.
He canned an 8-footer at No. 6, and when his approach spun back off the green at No. 7, he responded by chipping in for another birdie. Another birdie at the par-5 11th, from 4 feet after a downhill gap wedge from 112 yards had him feeling better. He was on the 12th green when the horn blew, and he'll be looking at a 15-foot birdie putt when he returns in the morning.
The outlook for Sunday:
From Reid, the tortoise, who will be facing his third shot from the fairway at the par-5 11th: "When we're out there again, we just have to be ready to go back to work. I'm not predicting."
From Pate, the thoroughbred, who has a 30-foot putt at No. 11 and is facing 26 holes of golf: "I love to play golf, so it doesn't matter to me how many holes we play."
Quigley, the hare, facing a 15-foot putt at the 12th, who's playing with the equally light-hearted Jacobsen the rest of the way: "When I played with guys who are talkative like I am, and I played with Fuzzy Zoeller and Jim Colbert, the non-serious type, I won a bunch."