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Hoping it'll blow over, tour postpones Pebble Beach finale

Rain and wind strong enough to topple a tree on No. 3 fairway prompt officials to put off final round without a ball being struck. It will be played Monday, weather permitting. Dustin Johnson leads by four.

February 16, 2009|Chuck Culpepper

PEBBLE BEACH — A tree fell in the fairway, and PGA Tour officials heard it.

They postponed the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am until today, given appalling conditions that included 60-mph gusts, spiteful rain and one downed, grand old Monterey pine on the No. 3 fairway at Pebble Beach.

If weather allows today -- and the forecast didn't look optimal -- the first of the 68 remaining players will tee off at 7:30 a.m. and the final group will go at 9:20 a.m. If weather sneers again and nobody strikes a single shot as on Sunday, they'll revert to the 54-hole scores and declare 24-year-old, second-year tour member Dustin Johnson the champion.

"We're mandated by the regulations to do everything we can to play 72 holes," tour vice president Mark Russell said, but the trickiest situation would come if half the players could finish their fourth rounds and then weather intruded.

That would make completion mandatory, either on Tuesday or some other time. The 1998 event finished on a Monday in August.

As of Saturday afternoon, when Johnson birdied No. 18 at Poppy Hills to reach 15 under par, he led by four shots over 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir and by five over 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen.

With his first Sunday lead on the PGA Tour, Johnson aimed for his second tour title and second since October, having won the Turning Stone Resort Championship by chasing down Robert Allenby with two closing birdies. He also aimed to become the only player other than Anthony Kim with two titles before age 25.

"I've never really been in this situation, so I'm not sure," Johnson said, but he did rise earlier than usual Sunday, then received text-message updates while watching TV and eating breakfast and "playing around on the computer a little bit."

By late morning, officials had set a hopeful tee time of 1:45 p.m. and had excused the amateurs from their usual Sunday participation to lighten the course load, with Johnson and attorney Joe Rice declared the pro-am winners.

Ultimately, though, Russell cited safety issues, saying, "We had some tents blow down. We had some towers blow down, and it was too dangerous to get the fans and the spectators to go out there and play golf and observe."

It became the first AT&T with a Monday finish since 2000, when Tiger Woods famously chased down Matt Gogel from seven shots back in the last eight holes, and it postponed by one day the self-test of a 24-year-old yet to grapple with a four-shot lead as a final round begins.

"Obviously I'm going to be nervous tomorrow," Johnson said. "I get nervous every time I step on the first tee. But it's just how you embrace it and how you let it affect you. You know . . . I like the feeling."

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chuck.culpepper@yahoo.com

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