Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays a shot from a bunker on the eighth hole during the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 (August 28 in Manila), in Atlanta, Georgia. AFP PHOTO
Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays a shot from a bunker on the eighth hole during the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 (August 28 in Manila), in Atlanta, Georgia. AFP PHOTO

WASHINGTON: Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion, clung to a one-stroke lead when Saturday's (Sunday in Manila) third round of the US PGA's Tour Championship was suspended due to lightning.

Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele was only one shot adrift when the last 14 players on the course were halted, setting up a tense last-day drama in the PGA's season-ending showdown at East Lake in Atlanta.

Scheffler paced the 29-player field at 19-under par through 12 holes with playing partner and fellow American Schauffele on 18-under.

"With a 72-hole event I think it's still pretty early in the tournament," Scheffler said. "We're all just kind of jockeying for position and I was just out there trying to hit some quality shots."

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South Korean Im Sung-jae was third on 16-under with four holes remaining, while four-time major winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland was fourth on 15-under and 5-under on the day through 16 holes.

Scheffler began the tournament with a four-stroke edge on Schauffele thanks to a staggered-start scoring system based on season point totals, but Schauffele had trimmed that edge to two strokes after 36 holes.

After lightning caused a 58-minute delay in tee times before leaders teed off, Schauffele made a charge.

He sank a birdie putt from just outside 12 feet at the par-3 second hole and another from just past four feet at the third to match Scheffler for the lead at 19-under.

Schauffele paid the price for missing fairways with bogeys at the fourth and fifth holes, only to birdie the sixth and seventh — the latter on a 33-foot putt — to again equal Scheffler.

After seven pars, Scheffler holed a 12-foot birdie putt at the eighth to pull one stroke ahead and both leaders made bogeys at the par-3 11th after landing in bunkers, leaving Scheffler ahead when play was stopped.

Play was set to resume Sunday morning with leaders teeing off in the final round in the early afternoon.

The staggered scoring system means whoever fires the week's low 72-hole total will not necessarily win the $18 million top prize on offer from the FedEx Cup playoffs.