Strong wind suspends third round at Pebble Beach
Sat, Feb 4, 2023 6:03 PM
By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A strong wind was more than just a menace at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It brought the tournament to a halt Saturday because of two holes on one of the courses, and set up a Monday finish without the amateurs.
Keith Mitchell made it through the worst stretch of wind at Pebble Beach, so strong that he hit an 8-iron on the 106-yard seventh hole. And right when he thought he was off the hook by getting through the ocean holes, the horn blew to stop play.
“We knew going into today that those were going to be the tough holes. That was going to be the hardest stretch potentially all week,” Mitchell said. “If we could make it through that stretch in a relatively good score, I would be set up for the weekend.”
He made it through, and after a big drive on No. 11 with the wind at his back, he suddenly had the rest of the day off.
Peter Malnati was atop the leaderboard at 12 under with six holes left in his round at Pebble Beach. He started on the back nine along the ocean in benign conditions, and he was on the fourth green, coming off three straight birdies, when play stopped.
Mitchell, playing alongside Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, and Joseph Bramlett, playing with Welsh soccer star Gareth Bale, were at 10 under.
Kurt Kitayama, the 36-hole leader, and Hank Lebioda were three shots behind. They were at Spyglass Hill.
The culprit was the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula, particularly the stretch that runs along the ocean. Gary Young, the PGA Tour's chief referee, began getting reports that balls were moving on the greens. He said one amateur hit a putt and the wind began to blow it back toward the player.
With a three-course rotation, play has to stop at all three courses. The PGA Tour was hopeful of restarting later in the afternoon, except the wind was relentless and the forecast didn't provide any optimism.
The third round was to resume Sunday morning, and the amateurs had the option to return and complete a pro-am that will be only 54 holes.
Mitchell was asked if he expected Allen to be among the amateurs to finish.
“I haven’t spoken with him. But the guy was out practicing in the rain and the wind this afternoon when everybody was inside,” he said. “I can’t imagine him not showing up. The weather’s better tomorrow morning than in Buffalo right now, I can promise you that.”
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was leading. His partner is Ben Silverman of Canada, and they were at 25-under par. That would point to some amazing golf by Rodgers, who plays off a 10 handicap and is getting limited help from Silverman, who was 2 over for the tournament.
The 54-hole cut typically is top 60 to account for the 25 amateurs. Now it will revert to top 65 and ties, and it will be professionals only for the final round. Young anticipates the lead group getting in nine holes.
The Monday finish will be the second time Pebble wasn't decided on a Sunday since Tiger Woods came from five shots behind to win in 2000. Phil Mickelson had to play two holes Monday morning to win in 2019, and Dustin Johnson was declared the 54-hole winner in 2009 the final round couldn't be played on Monday.
The wind had been expected later in the day, one reason for moving up the starting times by an hour. Weather at Pebble, however, is rarely predictable.
It arrived about three hours after the round began, and it was ferocious.
Mitchell smashed a drive on the par-5 sixth and had 235 yards up the hill, and he came up some 30 yards short of the green. Then came the chip 8-iron down the hill at the picturesque par-3 seventh.
With the wind and their backs on the eighth, in which the second shot is over a corner of the ocean, Allen hit 6-iron off the tee, and then he hit another 6-iron to 12 feet on the fringe. Mitchell and Allen were six shots behind Rodgers.
For others, it was tough to hang on. Jordan Spieth figured he needed to be 3 or 4 under through the opening stretch at Pebble. The wind showed up on the par-3 fifth, where Spieth pulled it left into a bunker and made bogey. He finished the front nine with a bogey and a double bogey for a 39, leaving him on the cut line.
Mitchell had the toughest stretch of Pebble in the wind, but it was tough all over. Bramlett, who played college golf at Stanford, had 136 yards into the wind on No. 9 and hit 8-iron short of the green. On the par-5 14th, with the wind at his back, he had 210 yards up the hill and hit 8-iron over the green.
“It's a guessing game,” Bramlett said. “We're just doing our best.”
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