LOS ANGELES – Given the weather problems the rest of the country is enduring, Saturday’s 35mph gusts under sunny SoCal skies are likely the ultimate insult to the winter injury. But in the context of Tiger Woods’ very limb-member, Storm added what some saw as an unacceptable degree of difficulty to an already demanding test.
Under the best of circumstances, the Riviera Country Club is a non-stop stress test, but the winds blowing through the canyon as 36-hole runner Sam Burns stepped onto the first tee made the gem of Los Angeles unplayable.
Seriously, impossible to play.
For the first time since the 2015 Open Championship, play was halted on the PGA Tour due to high winds. The wind howled, players waited and officials debated for nearly four hours before the round resumed just after 5 p.m. ET. Play was originally scheduled to resume at 12:20 p.m., but officials delayed the resumption until the gale dissipated into a healthy breeze.
“From what I was told, the balls weren’t staying on the greens, and obviously I think there is a fine line between difficult and fair and I think that line has been crossed,” said Burns said. “I think they did a good job stopping the game.”
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Technically, the PGA Tour halted play due to what were considered “unsafe conditions,” but officials admitted golf balls were being moved onto the greens by the gusts, and crews were dispatched to spray. some of the putting surfaces during the delay in what was the only really unfortunate part of Saturday’s stoppage.
Riviera was perfect. The historically soggy event was firm and fiery for this year’s Genesis Invitational – just as traditionalists want it to be. There were no complaints. The course was firm but fair. Right on the edge.
Until Burn’s backswing to the first tee was interrupted by an explosion of the weather warning horn.
The forecast was for winds in the 10 to 15 mph range at 10 am, with the worst conditions not expected to arrive until 4 pm, which would have been about an hour after the end of the game. The forecast is not clear. perfect, however, and as the field crowded around the iconic clubhouse in search of shelter, they weren’t looking so much for someone to blame as they just wanted to get back to work.
“It was just very extreme,” said Wyndham Clark, who was on 16e hole when the game was stopped for the day for the dark. “We weren’t in the really tough holes. I mean, seeing some of the pin placements and how they played after we came back and how tough they were, that was definitely unfair I think earlier for sure.
Clark said before the officials threw in the towel he hit a 15 foot leeward putt “one foot” on the first green and drifted 3 feet past the hole. Later in the round, he and Jordan Spieth, who he was paired with, estimated that no more than five players in the 67 field would be able to hold the green down 14.e hole. In fact, 10 of the 61 players who took a par-3 turn managed to hold the green, but his point was no less valid.
When play resumes early Sunday, 23 players will need to complete their third round, including Burns, whose five-stroke lead overnight had fallen to two shots after bogeys at No.12 and 13 to end his day.
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Newbies have had success at Riviera in the past, but the 24-year-old will face at least 23 holes and a crowded standings on Sunday.
Matthew Fitzpatrick was putting the finishing touches to the day’s round (he had 3 under at 17 holes) and will also be in contention for his first Tour title, as will Clark, who is tied at three to 7 under.
But with my apologies to Fitzpatrick and Clark, they probably won’t be on Burns’ radar when he starts his day right after sunrise. Not with Dustin Johnson who is barely hiding three shots back.
Although Johnson said he struggled with his driving this week and his putter was as cold as the wind that stopped play early in his round, the world No.1 was even tied with five holes to play on a course where he won (2017), placed (2015, ’14) and shown (2010).
But if Saturday was any indication, the biggest hurdle between Burns and his first Tour title is a forecast that calls for similar gusts in the 25-30mph range and a golf course already too close to the edge.