Tour Championship: Sunday will be a marathon as Justin Thomas holds 1-shot lead

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Tour Championship: Sunday will be a marathon as Justin Thomas holds 1-shot lead

PGA Tour

Tour Championship: Sunday will be a marathon as Justin Thomas holds 1-shot lead

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ATLANTA – A long Sunday awaits players in the Tour Championship as the 2018-19 season comes to a close.

That is, weather permitting.

The season finale took a jarring, dangerous turn Saturday as two lightning strikes shook the grounds at East Lake Golf Club and halted play in the third round. Six people were injured as lightning hit the maintenance area and struck a tree by the 16th tee.

“I was in player dining. The clubhouse shook. I never felt a clubhouse shake,” Paul Casey said as he departed the course. “When you’ve been around golf as long as I have, you know what a close lightning strike feels like and sounds like. It was just way too close for comfort. We all started hoping everyone was OK.”

PHOTOS: Fans injured after lightning strike
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Play was suspended at 4:17 p.m. ET. The lightning strikes hit at 4:45 p.m.

The third round is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. Sunday. The fourth round is scheduled to begin at noon. The forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of showers throughout the morning.

“Powerful, powerful stuff. Scary stuff,” Matt Kuchar said. “As a kid, I used to mess around like all of us did with the storms and always thought it won’t be bad. I’ve seen enough and been through enough to know you don’t mess around with it anymore.

“The Tour has done a great job of calling play early. If anything’s in the area, and they seem to have great equipment for making that call early, and it seemed like play was suspended a half-hour before the strikes came. I feel so bad for those people. I hope they are OK. It’s just one of those things that shakes you up as a player, as a fan.

“We all know that everybody comes out here to be entertained and enjoy some great golf and have an enjoyable afternoon. And for anybody to get injured in any fashion is a terrible thing.”

As for the golf, Justin Thomas will sleep on the lead once again. Thomas took the lead in the tournament that features a staggered scoring system last Sunday when he won the BMW Championship. He slept on the lead Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and did so again after the first round.

Thomas, the 2017 FedEx Cup champion, is at 12 under through five holes, one stroke ahead 2016 FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka. Xander Schauffele is two back. All four will be on the sixth hole when play resumes.

With East Lake playing its toughest on Saturday, Thomas made pars on the first five holes, while McIlroy had one bogey and four pars, Koepka two bogeys and three pars, and Schauffele one bogey and four pars.

Chez Reavie is through seven holes and was 3 under on the day and in a tie for fifth with Casey, who is through six holes. Each is three shots back.

Without weather delays, the final Sunday of the season will take on a marathon feel. Players will still be thinking back to Saturday and many will wonder why tee times weren’t moved back to start the third round as the forecast called for 60-90 percent chances of storms starting at 3 p.m.

“The priority is that people are OK,” Casey said when asked about looking ahead to Sunday. “In the grand scheme of this thing, you can say what you want, but people’s safety always should be paramount over playing any sporting event.

“We’ll just see how everything goes.”

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