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Arnold Palmer Invitational: Stormy weather holds up Tiger's assault

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 24:  Tiger Woods looks over a shot on the 2nd hole during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge

ORLANDO, FL – MARCH 24: Tiger Woods looks over a shot on the 2nd hole during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge

Perhaps there was just one thing that could halt the majestic march of Tiger Woods towards his 77th PGA Tour title – the weather. And it intervened just as Tiger stretched his advantage over the field to three with a birdie at the second hole. Severe thunder storms struck the area forcing the final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to be suspended until Monday. At this stage, it is difficult to envisage an outcome that doesn’t include Woods lifting this trophy for an eighth time. However, there are a group of four men who may yet spoil the party – Keegan Bradley, Ken Duke, Rickie Fowler and John Huh are all three strokes off the pace. Justin Rose started his day with a bogey that dropped him to 8 under, four adrift from the leader.

Even before the weather turned ugly, 33 of the early starters had a chance to complete their round and pack their bags. Among them was the low round of the day – a 67 by Bubba Watson lifted him to 4 under 284, with a good chance of a top-20 finish for the week. As many as 43 players will resume at 1930hrs IST on Monday to complete the final round. If, as expected, Tiger does win on Monday, it will help him emulate Sam Snead’s effort of eight titles at the Greater Greensboro Open. And most importantly, he will regain the throne he vacated in October 2010 as Golf’s world No. 1

There was also enough time on Sunday for an incredible sight before the weather intervened. Sergio Garcia, who was still raw from a quadruple bogey (9) at the par-5 sixth hole, saw his tee shot at the tenth settle between the branches of an Oak tree. With everyone staring in utter amusement, the Spaniard clambered up the branches before rescuing the ball to the fairway with a single handed backhand. But he fluffed his next and settled for a double bogey. Garcia was 3 over for the week and he officially withdrew from the tournament when play was suspended two holes after that adventure.

The Tour’s vice-president of rules and competition – Mark Russell – admitted that television was a factor behind not starting earlier on Sunday despite the expected weather issues. “If we played early, it was going to be a tape-delay situation. People were going to know who won before it came on television, so it defeats our television partners,” Russell said. “They (NBC) wanted to take a chance. They’ve been involved in several situations where we played early and it didn’t rain. It was just unfortunate.” With Woods expected to win, there was plenty riding for the sponsors and broadcasters and the commercial incentives were far too tempting for common sense to prevail.

“At least we got a little activity in today, so we’re not completely stagnant,” said an assured Woods, who recounted his experience in San Diego where he won despite a similar weather delay. “We had that fog delay in San Diego, and this is part of playing outside. We’ve got to deal with conditions like this.” It is the third time this year that a day has been lost to weather. Woods won the Farmers Insurance Open on Monday after fog forced a day of inactivity at Torrey Pines. The course is expected to play significantly softer on Monday, which might be the only challenge facing a resurgent Tiger as he continues his inexorable return to the top of the game.

Scores:

-12: T Woods (US)

-9: K Bradley (US), K Duke (US), R Fowler (US), J Huh (US)

-8: M Wilson (US), B Stuard (US), T Olesen (Den), G Fernandez-Castano (Sp), J Rose (Eng)

-7: J Walker (US)

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