The U.S. Open trophy was on display Monday morning. It remained anyone's guess who would hoist it at day's end.
With only a slight chance of rain, the final round of the oft-delayed championship resumed with Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover tied for the lead at 7 under. They were on the second hole, and had a five-shot cushion over their nearest challengers, a group that included Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Hunter Mahan and Ross Fisher.
A dozen players were within seven shots, including defending champion Tiger Woods, who trailed by a staggering 15 strokes at one point during third-round play Sunday and erased more than half that deficit by nightfall.
This U.S. Open is far from over.
Barnes threatened to make it a runaway on Sunday, leading by six strokes at one point. But he made bogey on six of the final 13 holes he completed before dark, falling right back to the pack.
Mickelson, determined to bring a fairy-tale finish to a U.S. Open career filled with disappointment, made seven birdies in his third-round 69 that left him six shots behind. He has been the runner-up four times in the U.S. Open -- three times in New York -- and is desperate to bring a silver trophy of cheer home to his wife Amy, who is battling breast cancer and begins treatment July 1.
"I'm one good round away," Mickelson said.
Mike Weir was six shots off the pace, and the world's No. 1 isn't out of it yet, either: Woods made a putt in the dark for birdie at the 7th hole just as play was stopped Sunday night, getting to even par and still in the hunt for his second straight Open title.
"You have to play a great round of golf and get some help," Woods said. "Obviously, it's not totally in my control. Only thing I can control is whether I can play a good one or not."
It's an unlikely duo in the final group. Forget leading: Barnes has only been within 10 shots of the lead after the third round of a PGA Tour event three times before in his career, and Glover has exactly one win on tour.
For a while Sunday, they seemed by far the class of the field. Taking advantage of Bethpage's soft fairways and greens -- and making plenty of great shots along the way -- Barnes joined an exclusive group early in his third round, when he made a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 4th hole. That sent him to 11 under; in U.S. Open history, only Woods, Jim Furyk and Gil Morgan had ever been double digits below par.
It didn't last.
Barnes started to leak shots around the midpoint of the third round, quite possibly feeling the strain that comes with leading a major for the first time.
"I've got to get my legs moving with my arms," Barnes said after the third round. "We all know that those go together."
He only completed one hole before darkness stopped play of the twice-delayed championship around 8 p.m. Barnes got a ride off the course, but the way things were going, he likely would have walked home if that's what it took to get away from Bethpage for a while.
He went 33 holes without a bogey before, without warning, making par became a struggle.
"I'll take a lead in 54 holes after any event, let alone the
U.S. Open," Barnes said.
Glover proudly pointed out after 54 holes that he and Barnes were "playing better than everybody right now," but was also quick to add that with the caliber of players lurking, someone was going to close the gap.
"There's too many great players and the golf course is too good," Glover said. "You know somebody is going to make a run."
Duval would love for it to be him.
He hasn't won since taking the 2001 British Open, but is in position to change that in stunning style. He's 2 under through two holes of the final round, in a four-way tie for third place and thickly in the hunt.
"I've been there before," Duval said. "It's not like a distant memory."
If an 18-hole playoff is necessary, the USGA planned to start it Monday afternoon.