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PGA of America is to blame for Monday finish

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Thousands of fans lined the fairways, waiting to cheer home a winner. Millions of television viewers tuned in to watch what was shaping up to be an exciting conclusion. The stage was set for the year's final major champion to be crowned.

All of it was lost in the early-evening darkness Sunday at Baltusrol Golf Club, where fans were denied a winner and the PGA of America was left to make excuses.

It didn't have to happen this way.

The 87th PGA Championship could have -- should have -- finished on Sunday.

Despite a weather forecast that suggested there was a strong possibility of rain and lightning during the afternoon, the PGA of America selfishly stuck to its plan to have the leaders go off at 3 p.m. ET, leaving very little margin for error.

It got burned, and not by the scorching sun. And if it weren't for the many, many people who lose in this situation, you could say that the PGA of America got what it deserved.

Kerry Haigh, the managing director of tournaments for the PGA of America, said it was the organization's call -- and its call only -- on whether or not to alter the tee times for Sunday. And to hear him talk, the idea was barely considered.

Even though Phil Mickelson complained on Saturday that it was getting dark when he was completing his third round.

Even though a three-hole aggregate playoff would still have to be contested if two more players tied after 72 holes.

Even though a 7 p.m. finish -- with everything going right -- left less than an hour of daylight.

You have to wonder if the PGA wasn't looking out for its television partner, CBS-TV, in this deal. CBS pays the organization millions for broadcast rights, and having a tournament that goes right up to 7 p.m. in the East is perfect for ratings and a great lead-in to 60 Minutes ... which, by the way, conveniently came on only a few minutes after play was officially suspended.

"If we absolutely knew for sure we were going to get hit [by rain] at 6 in the afternoon, then we would certainly talk about it and figure out if it make sense to make an alteration," Haigh said. "But the chance of scattered showers, scattered storms, was not necessarily reason to do that."

What more reason could there be?

For most of the week, temperatures have hovered in the high 90s, with much humidity. You don't have to be Willard Scott to know these weather patterns present an excellent chance for thunderstorms, including lightning. The PGA of America, which is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where this kind of weather is prevalent in the summer, should know better.

Several players wondered why the tee times simply were not moved up. The PGA Tour does it all the time when there is a threat of bad weather. Better to move up the tee times and have nothing happen than to wait and face what we now face. It happened at last year's Masters, where Mickelson won by a stroke. Nobody seemed to mind that Mickelson's victory leap came an hour earlier. Certainly not those who were there and those who got to see it on live TV.

The first tee time Sunday morning was at 8. Had it been at 7, there is a chance the round could have been completed.

"[On Saturday], I had asked to go an hour earlier to try to get it in," Mickelson said. "I thought that [Saturday] night was a bit of a struggle in the last three or four holes seeing in the light, and when we had a delay before we teed off [Sunday], I knew that there was no chance of finishing, or at least I didn't think there was."

Then there is the competition itself that will be altered. Mickelson himself admitted that he thinks it was a break for him, that with a one-shot lead, he'll now get to play some of the finishing holes in conditions that are likely to not be as severe.

It is nobody's fault that the weather turned bad. That is part of golf, part of what professional players deal with week to week.

But it didn't have to come to this.

We should be celebrating a champion now.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.