Update 6:05 p.m. EST: Play was called for the day around 2:49 pm. PST. The pro-am competition will be shortened to 54 holes and the top 65, plus ties, of the professionals, will make it to the final round, up from the planned 60. The PGA Tour expects to resume play at 8 a.m. Sunday, but does not expect to complete all 72 holes by sunset, setting up a Monday finish.
They call Pebble Beach the greatest meeting of land and sea, and most days you’d have no choice but to agree. But Saturday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was just not one of those days. Mother Nature got so involved that the tournament was even halted mid-day due to high winds.
Tournament officials were forced to suspend play at the Pro-Am, a complicated event that has 156 competitors playing alongside amateurs. In order to make it happen on a reasonable schedule, they play the first three rounds over three different courses: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. The courses are all within a reasonable distance of each other, but given the sometimes volatile nature of weather along the coast, it can be raining at one course and sunny at another.
That was sorta of the case when the PGA Tour shut down play Saturday. Players at Pebble Beach were having a wail of a time but were able to forge on. As pointed out by Paolo Uggetti, an ESPN reporter on site, Jordan Spieth’s downhill tee shot on the 6th traveled just 240 yards. Uggetti also filmed Zac Blair as he played the short, par-3 7th, where the pro hit a stinging 7-iron into the wind. It cleared the green.
So that was the scene at Pebble Beach, which is just slightly sheltered from the ocean winds. Monterey Peninsula CC is more directly along the Pacific Ocean, and apparently, that was the issue. Jim Nantz explained on the CBS broadcast that balls were not staying put on the 9th green at MPCC, which is always a sign that either the wind is too strong or the greens are cut too short. Or both.
Either way, the Tour suspended play shortly after noon local time, with the leaders still having six to nine holes left in their third round. The major complication is that once play is suspended on one course, it requires the tournament to shut down play on the other courses, too. So winds battering MPCC greens can impact the play on Pebble Beach, too.
“As you can imagine, with three golf courses, logistically we’re challenged for getting everybody off the golf course and putting people back in position,” said Mark Dusbabek, PGA Tour’s new TV rules and video analyst. Dusbabek then explained the tournament’s intentions to restart play at 2 p.m. local time. Maintenance staffers sprayed water on the 9th green at MPCC to increase some friction so balls wouldn’t be sliding away with the breeze. When 2 p.m. came, the tournament did not restart, continuing the delay.
There remains at least two hours worth of play required to finish the third round, and only then would the tournament institute its cut to trim the field for the final round. The schedule can only get more complicated from here if the third round extends into Sunday. Winds are expected to remain in the 20mph range Saturday afternoon and evening. The forecast calls for basically the same weather Sunday, too, which just means it’s plausible we run into the same issue tomorrow. But again, this is not a rain issue. It is not a lightning issue. It’s simply the combination of green speed and wind force.
If Mother Nature doesn’t lay down, expect tournament officials to change their course setup to help continue play. For now, it’s a tournament frozen in time with Peter Malnati leading Keith Mitchell and Joseph Bramlett by two.