Els loses ground, but not lead

ORLANDO, Fla. — Three hours of rain put a stop to the final round at Bay Hill.

It did little to cool off Ernie Els.

Even though Els will have a two-shot lead with four holes remaining when the Arnold Palmer Invitational resumes today, the Big Easy couldn't help but think about how hard the task had become.

One minute he was five shots head and cruising toward his second straight victory on the PGA Tour. Then came a shot into the water, another shot into the sand, and Els was facing a restless night.

"Obviously, I'm not totally at ease with myself right now," Els said. "I'm a little angry or disappointed or whatever you want to call it. There's still work out there to be done, and I've got to get it done. I've basically got to go out there and play hard tomorrow morning, four holes as good as I can."

Els was at 11-under par through 14 holes when thunderstorms halted the final round, and rain soaked Bay Hill over the next three hours. Kevin Na was at 9 under and on the front of the green on the 15th hole, facing an 80-foot birdie putt.

The final round is to resume at 7 a.m. in the first Monday finish at Bay Hill since 1982.

"I was playing well and Ernie looked like he was struggling," Na said. "Probably good for Ernie that they called it so he can clear his head a little bit. For me, I need to make birdies to catch Ernie."

Ben Curtis and Chris Couch, playing in the final group with Els were at 8 under. Couch still had a 15-foot par putt on the par-3 14th. Retief Goosen also was 8 under through 17 holes.

J.P. Hayes and D.J. Trahan each shot 70 and were finished at 6-under 282. Phil Mickelson, who started his week with a 58 during a casual round in the California desert, ended it with a 77.

There's a reason Els was so angry despite his two-shot lead. He was five shots clear until hitting from the heavy sand of a bunker into the water on the 13th hole, leading to double bogey. He followed that with a tee shot into the left bunker that led to bogey on the 14th.

Even more annoying was the sound of a siren to suspend play, the sound of heavy rain on the roof, and the announcement that the course was too wet for any more golf Sunday evening.

"Not a very nice way to go into a bit of a break," Els said. "I'll be thinking about it all night. It won't be a very peaceful night, I don't think, but I'm going to come out tomorrow and get it done somehow."

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