Wilson to pursue another marathon victory Sunday

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If anyone knows how to handle a marathon Sunday, it's Mark Wilson.
January 21, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Mark Wilson is used to going the extra mile to try to win a golf tournament.

His victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii last year came on a 36-hole Sunday. Three weeks later, thanks to multiple frost delays, Wilson had to return on Monday, after watching his beloved Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl, to finish six holes of regulation and birdie the second in a playoff to win the the Waste Management Phoenix Open.


"It's just part of the PGA TOUR," Wilson said. "We have delays all the time. It is what it is."

But even Wilson had to admit the howling wind that curtailed play on Saturday and paved the way for a marathon Sunday at the Humana Challenge was pretty darn unusual. He was playing at La Quinta, the hardest hit of the three courses in the rotation, and was 5 under through 13 holes when play was suspended as the worst of the gales struck.

"We were expecting a windy day and everything, but I think we all were shaking our heads looking at each other, the playing partners and the caddies and everything, going, wow, this is something else,' Wilson said. "It's done some crazy things, debris all over the place, branches. And it got really even worse when we walked in."

With sustained winds of 20-25 mph and microbursts in the 50 mph range, PGA TOUR officials had no choice but to suspend play just after 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Balls were oscillating on -- and downright rolling off -- the greens. Trees were uprooted and branches went flying. Tents had to be evacuated. Port-o-lets were upended and scoreboards blew over, including one at PGA West's Palmer Course that ended up in the lake beside the 18th green.

"It's really bad," said Slugger White, the PGA TOUR's vice president of rules and competitions. "They've got a lot of trees down (at La Quinta). In fact, we're sending some a crew with some chainsaws to cut the trees that are down and take them away. So it's a mess. It's a real mess."

Although Wilson, who led Ben Crane by three when play was suspended on Saturday, likely has less than 45 minutes remaining in his third round, there are those with at least eight holes left to play when competition resumes at 7:30 a.m. PT. The field will then be cut to the low 70 and ties before the fourth round commences at approximately 10 a.m. off two tees.

In an effort to complete play by Sunday night, tournament officials decided to cancel Saturday's pro-am competition. While that means the fans will not get to see President Bill Clinton play his final nine holes with Greg Norman when play resumes, the decision means there's a chance that the regulation 72 holes will be finished by sunset, which came at 5:04 p.m. PT on Saturday.

"It will be very, very tight," White acknowledged.

"I've done the math," Wilson said. "I don't know how they can get it done tomorrow. But if we do, I would love to get it done. More power to them."

At least the weather forecast is a positive one with partly cloudy conditions and a high of 69. Gentle breezes in the 6-12 mph range will replace the raging wind of Saturday.

"I've never seen anything like that -- not that quick and that fierce and that intense in that amount of time," Zach Johnson, who is 17 under, said. He's 6 under for the day and he'll have five holes to finish in much more benign conditions as he attempts to make up ground on Wilson.

"My day was pretty good," Johnson said. "I gave myself some opportunities; made some putts, which is all you're hoping for. And then it certainly took a turn I had not anticipated."

Indeed. But conditions will be much more accommodating on Sunday as the third round resumes and there's a race to the finish -- literally, as well as figuratively -- when the fourth round gets under way.

Wilson has gotten off to hot starts each of the last two rounds -- making birdie on his first three holes Friday and then playing his first four Saturday in 4 under, thanks to two birdies and an eagle. But by the time he got to the 18th tee at La Quinta, which was his ninth hole of the day, Mother Nature had made her presence known.

At that point, there was only one thing he could do.

"You just have to be patient," Wilson said. "... I went from the mentality of making birdies to just making solid pars when I could."

But if Wilson is to win his fifth PGA TOUR event on Sunday -- or Monday, as the case may be -- he's going to have to be aggressive again. After all, everyone who survives the cut will be playing the Palmer Course where David Duval shot his 59 on the way to that 1999 win.