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Play suspended at AT&T, fans kept from course

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BETHESDA, Maryland (AP) -Even with Tiger Woods in the hunt, Congressional will be very quiet for the third round of the AT&T National on Saturday.

Because of a powerful storm that uprooted dozens of trees, including a 75-foot (23-meter) tree that crashed across the 14th fairway, the tournament was closed to spectators and volunteers because of safety concerns.

Mark Russell, the U.S. PGA Tour's vice president of rules and competition, could not remember another time when a tour event did not allow fans.

"It's too dangerous out here," Russell said. "There's a lot of hanging limbs. There's a lot of debris. It's like a tornado came through here. It's just not safe."

The third round was delayed for six hours. It was to start at 1 p.m. local time (1700 GMT), with threesomes going off both tees.

Winds as strong as 80 mph (130 kph) knocked out power to more than 400,000 customers in the area, uprooted trees and blew away some of the smaller tents. Before workers could start cleaning up Congressional, they had to clear away four large trees blocking the entrance.

The maintenance crew worked through the night, with a shorter staff. At big tour events like the AT&T National, the course superintendent often relies on the staff from area golf courses to help out during the week. On Saturday, many of them had to tend to their own courses. Plus, the cleanup was slowed by not having power at Congressional.

At least 40 trees were uprooted at Congressional, and limbs were scattered along the golf course. The 11th fairway was littered with branches for some 300 meters.

That would be time-consuming to clear. The more jarring images were large trees that had been cracked at the trunk, some of them crashing on top of the ropes that had lined the fairways. The 75-foot (23-meter) tree on the 14th was about 75 meters in front of the driving zone.

On Friday, Woods played a risky shot off the pine straw around a 60-foot (18-meter) tree toward the green on the par-5 sixth. A day later, that tree was on its side, cracked at the trunk

The wood signs on nearly every tee box had been ripped from the sign posts, and the trailers that house the U.S. PGA Tour's communications system, such as Shotlink scoring, narrowly escaped severe damage. Workers said the cables that provide the wireless signal were down, which could cause delays in scoring reports.

Hunter Mahan was at 7-under 135 and had a two-shot lead. Woods, who had a 68 on Friday, was five shots behind.

Several players were having breakfast in the dim clubhouse at Congressional, which was getting its power from a generator. Eighty players made the cut, though the tour hoped to be able to complete the third round.

Saturday tickets would be honored on Sunday.

Even so, it expected to be an eerie scene in the third round with Woods, Mahan, Adam Scott and Vijay Singh on the golf course, and hardly anyone watching them.

"It was an easy decision," Russell said of the plan to keep spectators away. "Everything inside the ropes was thrown outside the ropes."

The only other recollection of a tournament with no fans was in 2000 for a Champions Tour event in St. Louis, when Arnold Palmer played. The King can draw a gallery anywhere, but storms that week caused such a problem with traffic that no one could get to the golf course.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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