The Players Championship, its lustre tarnished more and more with each passing thunderstorm here in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., lurched another few steps toward a conclusion yesterday.
Oh, what a painful thing to behold. This was a golf tournament much anticipated because of the gaudy field, the enormous purse and the spectacular venue. Now it has been reduced to the status of a trip to the dentist. Everyone just wants it to be over.
More heavy storms caused yet another suspension of play yesterday, on a day when the champion was supposed to be crowned. That glorious moment may not arrive until tomorrow, given the fact that the leaders still have as many as 32 holes to play.
If that happens, it will be the first time in 25 years that a PGA event has finished on a Tuesday.
"People are just frustrated," said Tim Herron, who came out of the pack yesterday to grab a share of the 36-hole lead. "They don't know when to book a flight, because nobody knows if we're really going into Tuesday or not.
"I think they'll give us a clue (this morning). I'm frustrated but people consider it the fifth major so they're trying to finish 72 holes."
Some players finished as many as 11 holes of the third round, while others completed as few as four before the horn blew them back to the clubhouse at 2:30 p.m. as heavy weather approached. By the time the rain and lightning stopped at about 4:30, the already-waterlogged golf Stadium Course had become unplayable.
Play was scheduled to resume at 7:15 this morning, in hope of completing 72 holes by nightfall, but more storms were expected through the night.
"The forecast is no good," said beleaguered tournament director Mark Russell. "We're supposed to get some heavy rain (last night), but after this passes, we've got a pretty good forecast. If we can play golf at 7:15, I believe we can finish by about 6 o'clock (tonight)."
The PGA Tour is adamant that this be played as a 72-hole event to protect the integrity of a tournament that aspires to be considered on a par with the Masters, et al.
The problem is that this fine event stopped feeling like a golf tournament about two days ago for most of the people involved. It has become something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
Given their druthers, quite a few players would be more than pleased if Russell had decided that this fight with Mother Nature was unwinnable and declared this thing a 54-hole event.
But that is non-negotiable. Seventy-two holes will be played, come hell or high water, which perfectly describes the situation as it stands this morning.
Adam Scott, the defending champion who finished off his second round with a 68 yesterday, then birdied three of the four holes he played in the third round, joined Herron one stroke off the lead.
He said that one of the primary beefs of the players is that they get little or no information from the people running the tournament, adding to the uncertainty and unrest in the locker room.
"I think it would be good if they came and gave us hourly updates while we hang around in there smelling bad," he said.
As irritated as they are, Herron and Scott still are in position to win the tournament. What about the poor slugs who have been hanging around all weekend, watching the raindrops fall and -- in the brief interludes of golf -- watching their hopes drain away.
If play begins on time this morning, all 84 players who made the cut could be in for a rude awakening. The weather is supposed to be dry but the winds are expected to blow at 40 km/h. With the rough at five inches and getting longer by the minute, that wind would send more drives off the fairway and perhaps make for some big numbers.
"Guys that are hitting it well, it's going to help," Herron said. "And it'll create more of a gap between those guys and the ones who are not hitting it straight."
For most of the players, though, the plan will be simple: "Let's get it over with."