PALM BEACH GARDENS: Englishmen Ian Poulter and Paul Casey shared the lead as the US PGA Tour’s rain-delayed Honda Classic hurtled toward a manic finish.
Both Poulter and Casey were at seven-under par, Poulter through the first seven holes of his fourth round and Casey through nine holes when darkness halted play on Sunday night at PGA National.
The long day must have felt even longer to Poulter after he let a three-shot third-round lead evaporate early in the fourth, dropping three shots in two holes with a double-bogey at the fifth and bogey at the sixth.
That opened the door for Casey, who had birdied two of his last three holes in the third round to lie six off the pace through 54 holes.
Undaunted by the quick turnaround, Casey launched his fourth round with back-to-back birdies, then added birdies at the fourth and ninth.
Poulter regained a share of the lead when he stopped the rot with a birdie at the par-three seventh, where his tee shot left him three feet from the pin.
It was a welcome return to form after two shocking tee shots from Poulter.
He shanked his tee shot at the par-three fifth en route to a double-bogey and hit into the water at the sixth.
The two miscues saw American Patrick Reed pull level with a birdie at the fifth, then take the lead with Poulter’s bogey at the sixth, only to trip to a bogey at the seventh to trail Poulter and Casey by one through seven holes.
Plenty of players remain in contention, with American Phil Mickelson heading a group of five players at four-under par.
He was joined by compatriots Daniel Berger, Jeff Overton and Brendan Steele as well as Scotland’s Russell Knox.
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington was a further stroke back at three-under through seven holes.
Saturday’s torrential rains not only prevented play, they left the grounds crew with a massive clean-up.
When play began at 10 am, Poulter made the most of the rain-softened course, his four-under 66 giving him a nine-under 54-hole total of 201.
Harrington with a one-over 71 and Reed with an even par 70 were at 204 through three rounds, with Casey tied on 207 alongside Knox and Mickelson.
On Monday Poulter will be trying to capture his first stroke play title on US soil.
The European Ryder Cup star won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona in 2010, and his WGC-HSBC Champions victory in 2012 counts as a US PGA Tour win, but came in China.