PINEHURST, N.C. -- Having to go out and play one hole at 7 a.m. yesterday didn't exactly bother Simon Hobday. In fact, it has become habit-forming.
Hobday, the on-course leader in the 15th U.S. Senior Open, will complete his third round by playing five holes this morning over Pinehurst No. 2. Seventeen other players will do that at 7:45 a.m., and the fourth round is scheduled to begin at 9:55 a.m.
The forecast for today includes the possibility of thunderstorms for the third consecutive day.
Yesterday, a par on the 18th hole at 7:15 a.m. gave Hobday a second-round 67 and a two-stroke lead over Jim Albus going to the day's official round.
As it developed, however, Hobday's third round did not start until a little past 5 p.m. after a rain delay of 3 hours, 43 minutes. Officials actually had the players in place an hour earlier, but lingering lightning strikes in the area put the resumption of play on hold.
When darkness interrupted a round for the second straight evening, it was 8:08 p.m., and Hobday was cruising.
"That was the longest day I've ever been on a golf course," said Hobday, a native of South Africa. "Nothing even close to it. And I was pleased to hear that [suspension of play] whistle."
Birdies at the fourth, sixth, seventh and 13th (his last) holes moved Hobday, 54, to 13-under par after 13 holes of the third round. It produced a three-stroke lead over a strung-out leader board that had Jim Albus as the closest pursuer (10-under). His ** margin was six over Graham Marsh, and seven over defending champion Jack Nicklaus and Tom Wargo. Nicklaus had four holes to play, Wargo three.
"I'm putting better than I know how," he said. "I don't want to talk about it -- it might go away."
Albus, who got his second round in on Friday, is a cumulative 51-under for his four previous tournaments.
Albus said, for him, the day wasn't too long. He had four birdies and a bogey in staying on Hobday's tail.
"Simon putted well, and played well," Albus said of his playing partner. "If he keeps going, I'm going to have to make a lot of putts."
He paused and added, "I'm playing well, and I feel great. If I can putt well [today] he's going to have to play well."
Dave Stockton, off to a slow start with an opening-round 74, bolted into the top half-dozen with the day's low round, a 68. Stockton, who has won two of his last three starts, was the leader in the clubhouse with a 54-hole total of 209, 4-under-par. He completed his round just before play was suspended.
Bruce Lehnhard, a former Middle Atlantic PGA champion and player of the year, was exhausted after playing 25 holes during a 12-hour on-again off-again day.
He played seven holes in the morning, completing his second round with a 1-over-par 35-37--72, and a 36-hole total of 147. He posted the opposite numbers in the afternoon, 37-35--72, and a 6-over-par total of 219.
"I was just trying to hang in there," said Lehnhard, playing in his first Senior Open. "It's hard to hit good shots and be aggressive when you're tired."
Mike McGinnis, the Holly Hills CC head pro, shook his head over his round of 39-39--78, and a total of 226. "I hit it like a bum," he said.
Later, in the locker room, he discovered the attendant had placed his shoes by another locker. It prompted him to say, "I've lost my game; don't let me lose my shoes, too."
McGinnis had four sixes on his card yesterday after going the first two rounds without any of them, and he never really got anything going.
zTC "I wish I could blame it on nerves, but I haven't been nervous at all, except for the last three holes yesterday [Friday, when he used pars to remain under the cut line]," McGinnis said.
"It's always tough," he said of the interrupted round, "but I was scraping it, so I don't think it hurt me. It was a total embarrassment."
Labron Harris Jr., of Glen Echo, Md., who joined Lehnhard and McGinnis in making the cut, shot 42-40--82, for a total of 231. Bob Bilbo, head pro at Argyle CC in Silver Spring, was 5-over-par for the round, 13-over for 31 holes when play was suspended Friday, and he withdrew.