Rain, wind force Monday finish - maybe - at Pebble
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -Pebble Beach has seen its share of nasty weather over the years, whether it was snow on the 18th green or so much rain that the tournament was canceled. One year, it started in February and ended in August.
Another chapter was added to its meteorological legacy Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The wind was so violent that it toppled a 40-foot Monterey pine across the third fairway. A corporate tent was the next victim, and a small tower behind the 17th green, used to measure shots with a laser, also was knocked over.
And then it rained.
Dustin Johnson never made it to the driving range, giving him another night to sleep on his four-shot lead. And with more rain in the forecast Monday, there's a chance that his 7-foot birdie putt at Poppy Hills on Saturday will be his final shot of the tournament.
``I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow, and I hope we get to,'' Johnson said.
If the weather allows, it will be the first 54-hole event on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson won the BellSouth Classic in 2005 on a Monday before the Masters.
It could be the first Monday finish at Pebble Beach since 2000, when Tiger Woods rallied to win from a five-shot deficit, making up seven shots over his final seven holes. The year before, the Sunday round was washed out by rain and the late Payne Stewart was declared the winner when the Monday forecast showed storms that stretched from California to Japan.
Stewart had a one-shot lead that year. Johnson is four shots clear of Mike Weir, the former Masters champion from Canada, who would be playing in the final group at Pebble for the second time in four years.
Yes, he wants to play.
``I'm glad they made that decision,'' he said of the Monday finish. ``I definitely don't want them to call it. I want to play. Today, tomorrow, it doesn't matter. I want to play.''
Weir lost five shots in three holes in good weather in 2006, so he would be curious to see what might happen if conditions were blustery and wet during a final round Monday.
Pebble can be a pushover when it's calm. Add the elements, and it can be a nightmare.
``It would probably be a lot of ugly golf out there, but it would be kind of fun to see who could handle it,'' Weir said.
Retief Goosen, the two-time U.S. Open champion, was five shots behind, with D.J. Trahan another shot back. Trahan needs to finish alone in sixth place to move into the top 64 in the world ranking and qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
A victory by Johnson would put him in the top 50, making him eligible for the Match Play and the first two majors, including his first trip down Magnolia Lane for the Masters.
But that would be getting too far ahead of himself.
On Sunday, he never got past breakfast.
He awoke earlier than usual, then stuck to his typical plan of going to the course two hours early to eat breakfast.
``I got a text when I was sitting down for breakfast. I knew it was coming,'' he said. ``It was just a matter of when it came.''
Johnson drove by the driving range, which didn't look good, although if he hung around he might have seen Phil Mickelson pounding buckets of balls in the wind and rain.
Mark Russell, the PGA Tour tournament director at Pebble, said wind was the biggest problem.
``It was a dangerous situation,'' Russell said. ``We had gusts up to 60 mph, I understand. We had some tents blow down. We had some towers blow down.''
The rain didn't help, filling some of the greens with puddles.
The final round was delayed two hours to get the course ready - that was before the tree fell and everyone heard it - and then officials excused the amateurs from the pro-am portion of the tournament. It was the first time since 1998, when Pebble finished its third and final round in August, that the pro-am ended early.
Another hour was required to redo the pairings with 68 pros, and then more rain came, bringing with it another three-hour delay. As more clouds gathered over the peninsula, it was time to send everyone home.
The tour's edict is to play 72 holes whenever possible, and it could get sticky Monday. If more than half of the field finishes the fourth round, the tournament has to go the distance no matter how long it takes.
Russell believes the tour's emphasis on playing 72 holes emanated from the Byron Nelson in 1994, when only 36 holes could get squeezed in through the rain and Neal Lancaster won a six-man playoff.
The size of the lead isn't an issue.
There was a nasty forecast at Torrey Pines last year for the final round, when Woods led by eight shots. Why not just call it off? Russell said then what he repeated Sunday.
``This isn't Little League,'' he said. ``There's not a mercy rule.''
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