AT&T National third round in the books, thanks to impressive storm clean-up effort
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

A fierce storm tore through the DC area and hit Congressional hard on Friday night

The maintenance workers and clean-up crew at Congressional Country Club deserve a huge round of applause for preparing the storm-ravaged golf course in time for golfers to complete Saturday’s third round.

Just after 10pm on Friday evening, a fierce thunderstorm called a “Derecho,” which originated in the Chicago area, wreaked havoc in the nation’s capital. The storm goes at least 250 miles with winds at least 58 miles per hour or greater. In the Bethesda, Maryland, area, gusts reached 80mph.

While only three-tenths of an inch of rain was recorded, a Derecho is considered more of a big wind-maker than a rain-maker. At least a million households in the greater DC area still don’t have electricity, which means no air-conditioning, either.

It seemed to almost come out of nowhere last night. One second I was reading tweets from golfer about a thunderstorm warning, and then just minutes later, the lightning and wind storm started and didn’t stop for nearly an hour (it was kind of cool to watch, but the part with the power going out kind of sucked).

Greg McLaughlin, Tiger Woods Foundation President and CEO, tweeted on Friday at 11:30pm: “Wind blew down countless trees at Congo. Came back at 10p and 3 trees uprooted block main drive. Had to climb over to get to club. #longnite

The maintenance crew worked throughout the night, trying to prepare the course for play on Saturday. 30 members of the Tiger Woods Foundation and 10 Congressional CC staff worked through the night. Over a hundred of maintenance crew from Congo and neighboring golf courses arrived at 4am to assist.

/hat tip

In the morning it didn’t look like it’d be ready in time due to the extensive number of trees that had been uprooted (more than 40), including a 75-foot tree that collapsed across the 14th fairway. I mean, it was crazy just driving around Bethesda and checking out the damage during the drive from the hotel to the golf course. This morning I saw a power line that appeared to have recently fallen across the highway on the other side of 495.

The great fallen tree on 14

For safety reasons, tournament staff decided to close the golf course to spectators and most volunteers.

“It’s a situation where it’s dangerous out there with a lot of limbs down, a lot of trees down, places to walk,” said Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s VP of Rules and Competition. “With a large gallery, we just thought it would be best for everyone and everyone’s interest and safety that we didn’t allow that today.”

Tree by the 6th green

“It has been an extraordinary 24 hours at the 2012 AT&T National,” said tournament host Tiger Woods in a statement. “I am so impressed by the hard work and dedication from everyone involved with this tournament, from the Congressional Country Club members and staff; the team from my Foundation and the PGA Tour. It’s really great to see everyone pull together and ready the course for play. I’m very thankful for their efforts and look forward to welcoming the fans back on Sunday.”

Woods was in his hotel when the storm hit and looked outside the window, where there’s usually a fountain, but due to the winds, he said it looked like someone had turned on a fire hose and the water was spraying sideways.

“I turned on the Weather Channel right before I went to bed, and it said gusts up to 60 to 80, and we ended up getting over that,” said Tiger after posting a four-under 67 for a 54-hole total of seven-under, just one shot off the lead. “The staff got here early in the morning, and they were buzzing my phone about 4:00 a.m. and saying that it’s blocked. So yeah, it was a long day for the staff, and they did ‑‑ as I said, they did an incredible job.”

Somehow, the crew was able to get the golf course ready by 1pm on Saturday afternoon, with threesomes teeing off both Nos. 1 and 10.

“When I came in here this morning I didn’t think that we had a chance to play,” said Russell. “I mean, giant trees down on fairways, cart paths blocked, just trees everywhere down, just right at the base, like a tornado went through here. It might have happened. No power, no anything. But those guys and their crew worked so hard and we’re able to play golf at 1:00. I’m amazed.

“Let’s hope the weather cooperates this afternoon and we can get finished. I expect us to finish around 8:00, 8:15, something like that.”

Russell was almost right on the money — play completed at 8:20pm.

Big props to the workers and crew that toiled tirelessly through the night to make the third round happen.

(Getty Images/Rob Carr)