Storms delay play at AT&T; no fans allowed Saturday

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A worker tries to clear a 75-foot tree that fell into the 14th fairway overnight at Congressional.
June 30, 2012
Staff and wire reports

PHOTO GALLERY: Trees down, tents flattened overnight at Congressional C.C.

BETHESDA, Md. -- Even with Tiger Woods in the hunt, Saturday figures to be awfully quiet at Congressional for the third round of the AT&T National.

Because of a powerful storm that uprooted dozens of trees, including a 75-foot tree that crashed across the 14th fairway, the tournament was closed to spectators and volunteers for safety reasons. Mark Russell, the PGA Tour's vice president of rules and competition, could not remember another time when a PGA TOUR event did not allow fans.

"It's too dangerous out here," Russell said. "There's a lot of hanging limbs. There's a lot of debris. It's like a tornado came through here. It's just not safe."

Third-round adjustments
Here are the key adjustments for Saturday's third round of the AT&T National
Play will begin at 1 p.m. ET in threesomes off the first and 10th tees
No spectators will be allowed on the course due to safety concerns. Saturday's tickets will be honored for Sunday's final round.
TV coverage will begin at regularly scheduled time. The Golf Channel will begin coverage at 1 p.m. ET and CBS will begin its coverage at 3 p.m. ET
Limited ShotLink data will be available. That means Shot Tracker will not be available on PGATOUR.COM

The third round was delayed six hours. It is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., ET with threesomes going off both tees.

The PGA TOUR statement read: "In the interest of safety for our fans and volunteers, the AT&T National is closed to spectators and volunteers for Saturday. The tournament will honor all Saturday tickets on Sunday's round."

Television coverage for Saturday's round will remain as scheduled. The Golf Channel will begin its coverage at 1 p.m. ET, with CBS taking over at 3 p.m.

The storms knocked out power to more than 400,000 customers in the area, and downed trees along the Beltway. Congressional was not spared.

Workers arriving before dawn found some 40 trees uprooted, and limbs large and small scattered along the golf course. The 11th fairway was littered with branches for some 300 yards.

"Trees snapped off at the base, basically, the trunk of the tree," Russell told SiriusXM PGA TOUR radio on Saturday. "I've never seen anything like it, really."

The more jarring images were large trees that had been cracked at the trunk, some of them crashing on top of the ropes that had lined the fairways. The 75-foot tree on the 14th was about 75 yards in front of the driving zone. One worker arrived with three small chain saws in the back of his cart.

Given the size of the tree, it was akin to bringing a garden hose to put out a bonfire.

The wood signs on nearly every tee box had been ripped from the sign posts, and the trailers that house the PGA TOUR's communications system, such as ShotLink scoring, narrowly escaped severe damage. Workers said the cables that provide the wireless signal were down, which could cause delays in scoring reports.

PGA TOUR meteorologist Stewart Williams said that the storm is called a Derecho, a Spanish term that means "straight."

"In weather terms," Williams said, "it's a storm that goes at least 250 miles with winds at least 58 miles per hour or greater."

Williams said the storm developed in the Chicago area, gaining momentum as it moved east. By the time it reached Columbus, Ohio, late Friday afternoon, it had winds of 60-80 mph with gusts up to 100 mph. When it reached the Washington, D.C. area at around 10;15 p.m. ET, winds were at 70 mph. The storm lasted 30 minutes, then moved east and southeast toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Williams said a Derecho storm can happen at any time of the year "but they are most common in July and August timeframe, summer. It was extremely hot yesterday across the eastern two-thirds of the country, in the hundreds. It had a lot of energy to work with and that's how these things typically form."

Hunter Mahan was at 7-under 135 and had a two-shot lead. Woods, who had a 68 on Friday, was five shots behind.

"40 downed trees, no gallery, record heat and best staff around getting it done. See you @ 2:40 for R3 @ATTNational. Thx for the hard work!" Woods tweeted.

Several players were having breakfast in the dim clubhouse at Congressional, which was getting its power from a generator.

Greg McLaughlin, president of the Tiger Woods Foundation, tweeted: "No power, 40 down trees, debris everywhere. On a positive note, the heat index will only be 110 today."

Tournament officials said wind from 70 to 80 mph was reported. Several tents were blown away, including those that had been set up where shuttles dropped off fans, and on the first and 10th tees.

Saturday tickets would be honored on Sunday.

But for the play on Saturday, no one was to be allowed on the course except for security, tournament officials and workers and media. Players' families were allowed.