The competitors had to wait nearly six hours through a weatherdelay for a third consecutive day Saturday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
But it certainly was worth the wait when they finally returned to a rain-soaked TPC Louisiana layout just before 6 p.m.
When the third round of the $6.9 million tournament resumed after a delay of 5 hours and 43 minutes, the 71 players who made the cut when the second round was completed Saturday morning took advantage of ideal scoring conditions.
There was no wind to contend with, and golfers had the green light to be aggressive with the soft greens, sending scores spiraling downward.
When play was suspended by darkness at 7:32 p.m., second-round leader Jason Day, the world’s sixth-ranked player, and Erik Compton were tied for the lead at 13-under.
Four golfers — Justin Rose, Blayne Barber, Jerry Kelly and David Hearn — were a shot back at 12-under, while Hudson Swafford, Brendon de Jonge, Justin Thomas and Chris Stroud were at 11-under.
Day, who had to return early Saturday to play the final four holes of his second round, got through three holes in the third round. Compton completed six.
“It’s a lot of patience you had to have today, especially being out here for 13 hours,” Day said. “It was a long day … and I only played seven holes.
“It’s very easy to get frustrated and start getting angry at things that have gone on, especially the weather. But I have to somehow keep myself in it because there are still a lot of golf holes left. You just have to kind of stay centered and keep pushing.”
A total of 15 players will be within three shots of the lead when the third round resumes at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.
The final round will begin at 10 a.m. with threesomes going off the first and 10th tees — weather-permitting.
The good news: There’s only a 10 percent chance of rain Sunday.
Slugger White, the PGA Tour vice president for rules and competitions, said the goal is to get all 72 holes of the tournament in by Sunday afternoon, with a Monday finish an option if necessary.
Compton, Barber and Rose, who is ranked ninth in the world, were among those who benefited the most before play was called Saturday night.
Compton, who carded a birdie on the only hole he completed before play was halted shortly after noon, shaved three more shots off par in his next four holes and briefly took the lead before Day began his third round.
Barber had three birdies in a row to close his outward nine, and Rose started his round with three consecutive birdies to highlight play.
“It’s going to be a low-scoring tournament,” Compton said. “I was fortunate to get off to a decent start, a good start. You know, (Sunday) is going to be a long day. It’s a lot of golf, so you just have to reach a number.”
When asked whether he had a number in mind, Compton laughed and said, “I’d like to get to about 40-under-par and see how that does. But it’s one shot at a time, just try to be aggressive.”
The third round finally got underway at 11 a.m., but only 16 of 24 threesomes were able to get on the course before rain accompanied by strong wind — including one gust of 42 mph — swept over the TPC Louisiana layout.
When Day left the course Friday, he was 10-under and one stroke behind the co-leaders — Swafford and Boo Weekley.
By the time the second round was completed late Saturday morning, Day had surged into the lead with birdies at the 15th and 18th holes.
Day finished off a 7-under 65 after starting the tournament with a 67 on Thursday. He was one stroke ahead of Swafford, Stroud and Daniel Berger — all at 11-under — when third-round play began.
But then came the long wait.
“If it’s your first time in a delay like that, then it’s going to be hard because you’re going to be thinking about it all the time,” Day said. “This isn’t the first time I’ve had a rain delay. But I feel like it’s the first time I had a storm delay with the lead.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.