A morning thunderstorm postponed the start of the tournament by 2 1/2 hours. Play was then stopped at 12:50 p.m. because of winds that were strong enough to move balls on the slippery greens before players could mark them. The round was suspended for the day at 3 p.m. after wind gusts reached 50 mph.
It was kind of a situation where we couldnt conduct the competition properly this afternoon, PGA tournament director Mark Russell said.
Lee Westwood shot a 4-under 32 on the front nine to take a two-shot lead before the horns sounded across the course. Westwood sank 18-foot birdie putts on the first two holes, then added a 45-footer on the par-3 ninth.
He was ready to hit a 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole when a tournament official warned him that play was about to be stopped.
I said, Oh, so I can putt it now while its unplayable, or come back in the morning, when theres no wind on the greens, he said. Let me think about that.
The National Weather Service measured sustained winds of 25 mph with gusts up to 40 mph on Thursday morning. The service issued a wind advisory in the area to remain in effect until 7 p.m.
The wind delay was the first on the PGA Tour since the final round of the 2007 Verizon Heritage Classic at Hilton Head was suspended until Monday.
You dont often get weather delays without a cloud in the sky, thats for sure, Westwood said.
The Houston event drew a star-studded field, with 15 of the top-20 players in the world rankings here to fine-tune their games before next weeks Masters. Organizers have tried to set up the Tournament Course at Redstone with conditions simulating Augusta ' fast greens and light rough.
Westwood said the speed of the greens contributed to the stoppage.
Thats been the problem, really, the pace of the greens, he said. Once the wind started blowing as strongly as it did, there was no way the ball could stand still.
Westwood held a two-shot lead over a pack of eight players at 2 under.
Big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros didnt cope with the wind quite so well, ballooning to 9-over par through 12 holes before the delay. Playing in the first group of the day, Quiros hit only three fairways with his first seven tee shots and drove into the water on the par-4 11th for a double bogey.
Phil Mickelson also struggled, shooting 3-over through eight holes. Greg Norman, making a rare appearance on the regular tour, hit an approach to about six feet on the par-4 18th, but as he walked up to the green, the winds blew the ball to the fringe, about nine feet away from the hole. Norman was even through eight holes.
You know, I know they probably shouldve known the weather conditions were going to come in, said Norman. Ive been in this situation before, where we had to halt play. Its not an anomaly. Its just one of those things where well go back.
Rory McIlroy, Geoff Ogilvy, Anthony Kim and Vijay Singh were among the players who did not tee off on Thursday.
With a favorable weekend forecast, tournament officials were optimistic about finishing the event on Sunday. But Russell didnt expect to complete the third round on Sunday morning.
We dont need any more interruptions, Russell said. Its going to be kind of crazy. Were going to have to start at daylight and play till dark.