BETHESDA -- A frightening thing happened to Rocky Thompson on the way to a 69 at the U.S. Senior Open yesterday.
A bolt of lightning split the sky above the Congressional Country Club course while Thompson had a club in his hands.
"I threw that thing as fast as I could," Thompson said.
Moments after Thompson's scare, at 2:16 p.m., play was suspended. After a 3-hour, 42-minute delay, play was resumed, but not everyone completed the third round.
Tom Weiskopf, the second round co-leader with Tommy Aaron, stopped because of darkness after the 14th hole at 10-under par. Aaron is 2-under after four bogeys through 14 holes.
"I think I would have liked to finish today, get the round over and done with," Weiskopf said. "You don't have to worry about what is ahead of you, and the morning is easier because you get to sleep in."
Isao Aoki of Tokyo had six birdies -- including five straight on the fourth through eighth holes -- to go 8-under. The five straight birdies tied the U.S. Senior Open record set in 1986 by Dale Douglass.
"The three-hour suspension gave me time to relax," Aoki said through a translator, alluding to his two bogeys before the storm and the string of five birdies afterward. Aoki had completed 16 holes before play was halted.
The leader in the clubhouse was Raymond Floyd at 5-under 211, followed by Jack Nicklaus at 212, Larry Laoretti at 213 and Thompson, Dewitt Weaver and Bob Betley at 214.
The third round will be resumed today starting at 7:30 a.m., to be followed by the final round at 9:15.
"It's just part of the game," Weiskopf said. "No one can control it. It's just a matter of safety."
Weiskopf, well on the way to capturing "the one significant senior tour event I really want to win," said there were good and bad things about the course after the rain.
"The greens were smoother because the spike marks went away, and softer, making the ball stop quicker," he said. "But the rough is tougher to get out of if you drive in there, so it's sort of a trade-off."
A lot of the players who got their rounds in yesterday were pleased with the results.
Chi Chi Rodriguez, for instance, shot a 1-under-par 71 after barely making the cut with 150 for the first two rounds. He made more birdies (five) than he had in ages after stumbling onto something on the practice range that did wonders for his game. He rated it perhaps his most solid round in two years.
"I moved my feet back from the ball and spread my feet more," Rodriguez said. "I had lost all my power. Everybody was hitting it past me. Today I hit some drives 270 yards."
Despite his good round, Rodriguez, with a 5-over 221, will not climb into contention.
"I haven't played well in two years and haven't won in two years," he said. "With these changes, I'm looking forward to playing the rest of the year. From now on, I think I'll play better. But I'll have to make a habit of it."
When asked about Congressional's greens, Rodriguez had an amusing response: "When a kid is born, he has to crawl, then walk, then run. I think the greens are now walking. In a year, they'll be running."
First-round leader Larry Ringer followed his second-round 80 with a 69 for a 217 total. The former Naval Academy coach, playing in his first U.S. Senior Open after turning 50 in April, spiced his round with an eagle on No. 14.
Ringer, head pro at the Country Club at Woodmore, allowed that the only time he had been as nervous as he was before Friday's round, on the heels of the media crush following his opening 68, was in 1974 at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
"At Winged Foot, I was paired in front of Mr. [Arnold] Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tony Jacklin," Ringer said. "They were walking up to the tee as I was about to tee off and I was nervous, just shaking."
Dave Eichelberger, who, like Rodriguez, just made the cut, also had an eagle. He chipped in with a sand wedge from the collar of the green, 40 yards from the pin, for a 3 on No. 6.
"Every once in a while the good Lord lets one get in," Eichelberger said. "You don't know why when it does, and you don't know why not when it doesn't."
After a 73 and a 76, Mike McCullough tied Ringer at 217 with a 4-under 68. Elementary, McCullough said.
"I hit it closer to the hole," he said. "I never felt it was going to be a bad day or a great day. The first two days I was 2-under and 3-over after the first four holes. Today I was 2-under. That in itself was the difference."