Romero is bright spot on gray day

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. --- All it took was one record-tying round and several claps of thunder for Oakland Hills to finally look vulnerable Saturday in the PGA Championship.

Andres Romero kept his calm and played a third round he described as "almost perfect" in making seven birdies to shoot 5-under-par 65 at Oakland Hills.

Then came Mother Nature, who really brought "The Monster" to its knees.

Thunderstorms swamped the golf course before 36-hole leader J.B. Holmes and five guys chasing him could even tee off. More than four hours later, the PGA of America told everyone to return today for what could be the first 36-hole final at a major in nearly 30 years.

"It will be like college again -- playing 36 in one day," Holmes said. "It happens, and everyone else has to do it, too. So we just have to go out there and deal with it. They've got 12 hours to work on the golf course, and it needed the rain.

"We'll see what it looks like tomorrow."

The rain could reshape the character of the final major. Holmes was at 1-under 139, the only player to beat par over two days, but so much rain was sure to take the fire out of the Donald Ross greens that had made players be on the defensive.

"I think it is fair to say they will be significantly more receptive," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA official in charge of setting up the course.

Former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera ripped a 3-wood down the first fairway when the round was suspended at 2:16 p.m. Hours later, as he looked toward more dark clouds to the north, he contemplated a marathon Sunday.

"It will be easier," Cabrera said. "There is justice."

Romero made it look easier even before the storm clouds gathered. The PGA helped slightly by pouring extra water on the greens overnight and trimming some of the rough in the landing areas.

But the 27-year-old Argentine did his part.

Romero first showed his explosive style last year at Carnoustie, where he made 10 birdies in 16 holes during the final round of the British Open and finished one shot out of a playoff. He was firing away at Oakland Hills, hitting a 3-iron to 6 feet on the par-3 ninth and making his final birdie with an 8-iron to 6 feet from a scary pin on the 16th.

"I played an excellent round," Romero said through his interpreter, Marcos Virasoro. "Almost perfect. Yesterday, I finished very mad with my round and now after this 18 holes, I can't believe it. I will have a chance for tomorrow. I have to wait, but it's great to be here."

He was at 2-over 212, and had no idea just how long he would have to wait to see where it stacked up.

The good news? He can get some rest. The third round was to resume at 7:15 a.m. this morning with six players facing 36 holes, while Romero won't have to show up until noon and play only 18.

The last major champion to play 36 holes on the final day was Seve Ballesteros in the 1979 British Open, the last year that major played the final two rounds on a Saturday. Tiger Woods played 27 holes on Sunday when he won the rain-delayed Masters in 2005.

Romero was among 25 players from the 73-man field who completed their rounds Saturday.

Augusta native Charles Howell was one of the 25 -- he shot 77 and is at 15-over 225.

Former Louisville, Ga., resident Brian Gay was 1-under through six holes of the third round when play was suspended. He's 3-over for the tournament.

Camilo Villegas of Colombia was at 4-under for the day through 14 holes and was 2-over for the tournament. Another shot behind were Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, who was 3-under for his round and in the bunker next to the 18th green; and Graeme McDowell also was 3-under for the day through 16 holes.

Steve Flesch was doing the best in his All-Lefty pairing with Phil Mickelson. Flesch rolled in a 20-foot putt and was 2-under for his round -- 1 over for the tournament -- through five holes.

Mickelson was at 3-over, but had an 8-foot eagle putt on No. 6 when play was stopped.

Sergio Garcia, still considered a big favorite, made par on the first hole and faces 35 more today.

"I guess the course is going to change quite a bit," Garcia said. "It's still going to be playing difficult, but probably not to the extreme it was playing the last couple of days."

Romero was amazed to even have a chance. After completing 69 in the first round on Friday morning, he lost his composure later in the second round when his 8-iron to the 16th spun down a slope into the water, and his subsequent lob wedge from the drop area did the same thing. He made quadruple-bogey 8.

"I couldn't come back after that 8," Romero said. "I made a double bogey at the 18th because I was so mad. I was almost fighting for the lead, and suddenly I was trying to make the cut. So I was going mad the rest of the whole round."

NONE BETTER

Andres Romero's 5-under-par 65 tied the Oakland Hills course record. The other 65s:


- George Archer, 1964 Carling World Open


- Alan Tapie, 1979 PGA Championship


- David Graham, 1979 PGA Championship


- Jack Nicklaus, 1991 U.S. Senior Open


- Chen-Tze-Chung, 1984 U.S. Open


- Andy North, 1985 U.S. Open


- Denis Watson, 1985 U.S. Open


- Tom Lehman, 1996 U.S. Open


Source: PGA of America


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