BETHESDA, Md. – An intense storm blew through the Washington D.C. area late Friday, leaving a wake of power outages and fallen trees that forced PGA Tour officials to push back tee times and condense play into threesomes at the AT&T National.
Play will begin at 1 p.m. off the first and 10th tees, with the leaders teeing off at 3:10 p.m. to give maintenance crews time to clean up the damage.
The field will play Round 3 without fans, however. Officials closed the tournament to spectators because of the debris.
“It’s just too dangerous out here. There are a lot of hanging limbs and a lot of debris. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Mark Russell, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions. “That’s a drastic decision not to let fans out, but it’s in their best interest.”
Second-round leader Hunter Mahan will play with Brendon de Jonge and Jimmy Walker, while tournament host Tiger Woods is scheduled to play at 2:40 p.m. with Bo Van Pelt and Cameron Tringale.
According to the Tour’s meteorologist the storm, which began on Friday near Chicago, produced “derecho” winds that gusted to 70 mph around Congressional and had the potential to do tornado-like damage.
The storm arrived at about 10:30 p.m. and lasted just 45 minutes and produced 3/10ths of an inch of rain but the damage to Congressional and the surrounding area was substantial with more than 40 fallen trees at the course. Much of the area, including Congressional’s clubhouse, remained without power.
Russell said the Tour will probably let fans attend Sunday’s final round and that they will likely play off of both tees and in threesomes for Round 4 to allow crews extra time in the morning to continue clean-up efforts. Players will also be allowed free drops out of debris areas for the final two rounds.
Saturday’s forecast calls for more storms late but they are not expected to be as intense as Friday’s squalls.