Stricker leads rain-hit Northern Trust Open

By John Reger

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Steve Stricker moved five shots clear at the rain-hit Northern Trust Open on Saturday before third round play was suspended due to darkness at Riviera Country Club.

Stricker was four-under par through 14 holes before play was suspended. On a combined 14-under, Stricker leads Luke Donald, JB Holmes and Andres Romero by five shots.

Romero, playing in the same group as Stricker, was 1-under through 14. Donald and Holmes were able to finish their rounds,

Donald carding a five-under 66 and Holmes a 67.

Stricker and Romero elected to mark their balls on the 15th green when play was called due to darkness. Stricker had a 37-foot birdie putt and Romero was just off the back of the green.

"It was a good day," Stricker said. "I don't know what kind of lead I have, but I still have to come out and play my own game and make sure that I do the things that I've been doing the previous three days."

Fifteen golfers will return early on Sunday to complete their round before the final 18 holes gets underway.

"It's not a huge advantage just because we're all going to be back out here early (Sunday) anyways," Stricker said. "I would have loved to have finished though, it's going to be a long day."

Donald and Holmes have the luxury of sleeping in, having completed their rounds, though they both know they will have to make up ground quickly to pressure Stricker.

"I'm sure (Stricker) will play a solid round," Donald said. "I would have thought I'd need to shoot something very low to have any chance, but again I'll be trying to play the course more than anything."

Saturday began with 41 players finishing their second round, though the start was delayed for 90 minutes because of rain.

One of those who had to finish his second round was Dustin Johnson, who had a chip-in birdie at the 18th to claim the second round lead at 11-under par.

However, after a birdie on the first, Johnson began to slip down the leaderboard with a double bogey on the third and another dropped shot at the next hole. He had a birdie on the 10th but it was sandwiched between two more bogeys to leave him three over for the round.

Stricker was quick to take advantage with birdies on the first, sixth, eighth and 10th to open up the five-stroke lead.

(Editing Peter Rutherford)