PINEHURST, N.C. -- Just about the time a hot sun was starting to dry out the greens a bit, a mid-afternoon thunderstorm put Pinehurst No. 2 back into its passive mode.
With its defenses down, its bite gone, the course became fair game for those in mid-round of the 15th annual U.S. Senior Open yesterday.
Jim Albus, who had shared the first-round lead with Simon Hobday at 66, shot a 2-under 69 yesterday and got in just ahead of a suspension of play to become the leader in the clubhouse at 7-under 135. Graham Marsh, with a 68 yesterday, is a stroke back.
Hobday did the best job of capitalizing on the course conditions, making birdies on four of the first six holes on the incoming nine to open a three-stroke gap on the field.
He was on the 18th hole at 9-under when darkness forced a halt to play at 8:15 p.m., leaving 33 players on the course. They marked their positions and were due to return at 7 a.m. today to complete the second-round play. Included in this group were pros Bruce Lehnhard of Fairfax, Va., 4-over for 27 holes after an tTC out-going par-35, and Bob Bilbo of Argyle CC, 13-over for 30 holes.
How important was that rain delay? Ahead of it, Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd each shot 68 for 137, trailed by Jay Sigel at 139, aided by the day's low round of 66.
Among the post-delay finishers were four players at 138 and better. It turned out to be the kind of round where Sigel could begin seven shots off the lead, shoot 66, and finish six behind.
Tom Wargo, who shot 70 yesterday, and Gary Player, who had 67, were at 3-under 139. Tom Weiskopf, who was working on a 66, which would put him at 4-under-par 138, had one hole to play this morning.
Mike McGinnis, head pro at Holly Hills CC in Ijamsville, led the Maryland contingent with a 2-over 73 and a 36-hole total of 148. With the cut projected at 149, it is probable he will be playing today and tomorrow.
Albus strung out 13 successive pars before making up for a bad chip with an 18-foot birdie putt at the 16th and rolling in a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th.
"It was frustrating to play well, have a lot of chances, and not have anything happen for a long time," he said. "Getting those two big ones near the end helped. I feel better."
Hobday was not overjoyed with the thought of getting up early."
"I'm not a pretty sight at 5, or 7 either," he said. "I wish we could have finished.
"After the rain, the greens were like dart boards and I was just getting better and better," he said of his five birdies. "When you are 50 years old, you don't know what's going to happen in the morning, but hopefully it will be as good [today]."
Although two strokes better than Thursday, McGinnis was quick to say, "I didn't play well. I did a lot of scraping, a lot of hard work."
He bogeyed the second and the ninth holes for his 2-over round. The rain delay found him at No. 16, and he came out and "hit a poor drive, fanned one dead right behind a trash can, had a nine-iron shot hit a bank and roll into a bunker, and then got up and down for par."
Cheered on by a small but vocal contingent of family and friends, McGinnis saved par from three of four bunkers and basically made one key putt -- a big bending 15-footer for par at the fifth hole.
NOTES: Vinnie Giles of Richmond shot 70-141 and has a virtual lock on low amateur for the second straight year. . . . Professional Labron Harris Jr. of Glen Echo, who won the 1962 U.S. Amateur on this course, is on the bubble at 72-77--149. His round included a 4-over 40 for the back nine. . . . Among the other finishers with area ties were pro Larry Wise, 78-80--158; and amateurs Dick Goerlich, 78-78--156; Perky Cullinane, 79-81--160; and Jerry McFerren, 81-80--161.