AKRON, Ohio (AP) – Tiger Woods had a two-shot lead at the NEC Invitational when storms approached and play was stopped for three hours. He returned to hit three full shots – none of them good – and fell into a tie for the lead Saturday when the third round was suspended.

After spending 10 hours during an on-again, off-again day at Firestone, Woods was tied with Kenny Perry at 7 under with three holes that he’ll have to finish Sunday morning.

Perry is not through, either.

Thanks to two birdie putts from off the green, Perry was 6 under for his round and facing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a chance to shoot 63.

Paul McGinley of Ireland was another shot back through 15 holes, while Stuart Appleby reached the 667-yard 16th hole in two shots for the second time this week and was 5 under through 16 holes. Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal finished his round with a 66 and was the clubhouse leader at 4-under 206.

“The day was great. The ending was not,” Perry said.

Twenty players did not finish the third round.

Perry was repairing his pitch mark on the green when the siren sounded to stop play the second time, and Perry has been on the PGA Tour long enough to know what to expect – a return at 7:30 a.m. Sunday to navigate 10 feet of the 7,360-yard course, followed by five hours of dead time before the final round starts.

“I think they called it too soon,” he said.

At least the tour gave players a chance to finish. Aware of afternoon storms, tee times were moved up five hours with hope the third round could be completed. Last week at the PGA Championship, tee times were left alone for the final round despite overwhelming evidence of storms, and the final major was carried over to Monday morning.

“No one is really happy right now,” Woods said.

Woods was 4 under for his round and had a two-shot lead when the round was stopped the first time. He had a difficult flop shot from left of the par-3 15th green, and returned to hit it 10 feet past the hole. His par putt caught the right lip, and Woods walked off the green cursing beneath his breath.

He followed that with a drive into deep rough to the left of the 16th fairway.

“I didn’t really put myself in very good shape on 16, so hopefully I can escape with a par there and make something happen the last couple of holes,” he said.

The start was no problem.

Woods ended his second round with a double bogey to slip into a tie for the lead with Luke Donald, and he was in trouble on the opening hole with a 2-iron off the tee and into a bunker. But he saved par with a 6-foot putt, then quickly seized control with a good break and some good putting.

A tee shot headed for the left rough on the par-5 second bounced off a cart path and back to a fairway, leaving him only a 7-iron into 12 feet for a two-putt birdie. He hit wedge into 6 feet for a birdie on the third, and a 9-iron into 12 feet for a birdie on the 465-yard fourth hole.

He led by as many as three shots at one point, and kept his cushion with an unlikely par on the 11th. His ball buried in deep grass just off the 11th fairway, Woods could only advance it 60 yards into more rough, blocked by a tree, with the pin tucked behind a bunker. He pitched it through the branches to 25 feet and made it to keep his momentum.

Then came the weather delays.

The first one lasted 3 hours, 11 minutes, although the heavy rain didn’t show up for nearly two hours. And after 31 players trudged back into position, the siren sounded again in about 20 minutes.

John Daly, who was at 1 under, got into a heated discussion with rules official Mike Shea. Thomas Bjorn, at 3 under in the final group, tossed his towel to the ground. Everyone headed to the locker room, and the third round eventually was suspended for the day.

“You’ve still got to get spectators off and get them safe. I understand that,” Perry said. “I’m not a weatherman. If they thought it was close, I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Perry still had enough time to deliver some entertainment.

He was trying to escape with par after hitting into the trees on the ninth hole, and it turned out even better when he holed a 50-foot putt for birdie from just off the green. He went from despair to delight on the 16th hole, where his sand wedge flew into the cup, popped out and went 25 feet away just off the green. He wound up making that one for birdie, anyway.

It was the third time in the last two weeks Perry has hit the flag. His shot on the 17th at Baltusrol in the first round spun in the cup for eagle, and he hit the cup and flew out on the 10th hole in the final round of the PGA Championship. That one spun off the green.

“Kind of ironic how it’s been going,” Perry said.

The only thing that didn’t surprise him was hearing a siren and knowing he would have to set an early alarm.

DIVOTS: Chris Riley is getting eaten alive by the “Monster,” the 667-yard 16th hole. He made a quadruple-bogey 9 in the second round, then made another 9 on Saturday by hitting two balls into the water and missing an 18-inch putt. … Perry attributes you his putting to a tip from Fuzzy Zoeller, who told him that everything at Firestone breaks toward the famous water tower in the parking lot, which resembles a tee with a massive golf ball atop it. “Y’all can’t write this in the paper, OK? … Don’t give my secret away.” … Lee Westwood was 7 under through 11 holes on his way to a 63 to put him at 2-under 208.


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