OAKMONT, Pa. --- Cristie Kerr didn't need to sink a long putt to gain a potentially significant advantage in the U.S. Women's Open, or whip a 290-yard drive down one of Oakmont Country Club's slender fairways.
No, she only needed it to rain.
A relentless string of thunderstorms that began with 100 of the 156 golfers still to begin or complete the second round caused play to be suspended at mid-afternoon Friday. Twenty-eight of the 31 golfers who were within three shots of the lead had played only a few holes or hadn't teed off.
Except for Kerr, the world's No. 1 player, and first-round leader Brittany Lang, who shared the not-very-crowded clubhouse lead at 1-over 143. Sophie Gustafson was at even par, but she had 17 holes left in her round.
Kerr finished her even-par 71 before the pelting rains flooded Oakmont's famed Church Pew bunkers and saturated its super-fast greens.
Lang slid from a first-round 69 to 74 with Christina Kim a shot back at 2-over 144 following successive 72s.
"We had a very dry course, and it can take a lot of rain," said the USGA's Mike Davis, who is confident that improving weather will allow the biggest event in women's golf to finish on schedule Sunday night.
Kerr was the undisputed favorite to win her second Women's Open in four years -- she also won in 2007 -- after winning the LPGA Championship two weeks ago by an unprecedented 12 shots. Only a week's break between majors gives her a chance to maintain her confidence and, arguably, the mental edge she owns over the other golfers.
Taking on 108-year-old Oakmont, its Stimpmeter-busting greens and fabled hazards is difficult enough in a tournament where the leaders might have already seen the last of below-par scores.
Taking on Kerr when she's on her game may be equally rough, even if 21 golfers go into this morning's play within two shots of the lead