The buzz of chainsaws and hum of leaf blowers took over Congressional Country Club on Saturday morning.
Armies of workers and several bulldozers zipped around the blue course, trying to restore it to playable conditions for the delayed 1 p.m. tee time of the third round of the AT&T National.
Tournament director Greg McLaughlin said about 40 trees of all sizes were blown over by severe thunderstorms that rolled through the area late Friday night. In the interest of safety, tournament officials closed the course to fans and volunteer workers on Saturday. Fans with Saturday tickets will be able to use them Sunday, according to the PGA Tour's website.
The ninth green took more than three hours to clear. Resting in the middle of the par-4 14th fairway was a tree that McLaughlin said might be an “immovable obstruction.” It eventually was moved off into the rough.
“I can't say enough for Mike Giuffre and his staff,” said Mark Russell, the PGA Tour's Vice President of Rules and Competition. “They've done a fantastic job.”
Amazingly, to the tireless workers' credit, by 12:30 p.m. Saturday much of the course looked like it went through a night like any other. The vast majority of the fairways were spotless and the greens are still immaculate. Spike marks might be the least of the worries on the greens, however, as stray branches ignored golf etiquette last night, causing a few marks and scrapes here and there, but otherwise the ball should roll as smoothly as ever.
Hitting the fairway will be as rewarding as the rough is punishing. A miss to the left side of the 6th hole, exactly where Tiger Woods lay on Friday, will leave a player directly in the middle of a mess of fallen trees and branches. The majority of these areas, falling under the “pile rule,” are marked as ground under repair.
Crews will return Sunday morning to clear off the remaining debris for what is likely going to be another delayed tee time. Russell said the groupings will likely be sent off the first and 10th tees again, as they are Saturday.
Shortly before the 1 p.m. start time, crews were still sawing off hanging limbs and moving the trees that last night called the fairways home as far out of play as possible.
“They've done a great job,” said Russell of the workers who got the course back in shape to play. “They've had some setbacks here and they've been up all night on the situation. I just want them to get this thing ready to go and get some rest and see if we can get it cleaned up for tomorrow.”