Burns leads PGA at wind-hit Riviera

Los Angeles—Sam Burns clung to a two-stroke lead over England’s fast-closing Matthew Fitzpatrick when darkness halted Saturday’s wind-hit third round of the US PGA Genesis Invitational.

Sam Burns of the United States lines up a putt on the 12th green during the third round of The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. AFP

Burns closed with back-to-back bogeys to stand on 10-under overall with five holes remaining when sunset halted play with 23 golfers—including 11 of the top 14 on the leaderboard—needing to finish their third round at cold and blustery Riviera Country Club.

“You’re getting wind you’re not used to seeing here,” Burns said. “Even when it’s downwind it was pretty hard to get the ball to stop on the green. Not a lot of opportunities out there.”

World number 149 Burns matched the 36-hole Riviera course record at 12-under par 130 to lead by five when the day began, then had to wait out a wind delay of three hours and 54 minutes before starting his round.

“Pretty long day,” Burns said. “The course is playing tough. We did a good job of trying to put it in the right spots.”

The American, chasing his first PGA title, still led by five strokes until the final half hour of play, when he made a three-putt bogey at the par-4 12th and missed a seven-foot par putt at the par-4 13th.

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, sank a 22-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th and stood on eight-under with one hole remaining.

“It was great,” the Englishman said of his round. “In and out because of the high winds. Went out to make some birdies early to kick start my round and just hung onto it on the back nine really.”

World number one Dustin Johnson was in a third-place pack on seven-under with fellow Americans Max Homa and Wyndham Clark. Johnson, the reigning Masters champion, and Homa had five holes remaining. Clark had three.

“Conditions were tough all day,” said Johnson. “Greens were firm and fast. The wind was blowing all day. It was a tough test. It played fine. It was fair. It just played tough.

“I played pretty good, a couple bad bogeys but in these conditions it’s very difficult. I feel like I’m playing pretty solid. I’m going to have to go out and shoot a good number tomorrow.”

Wind brings safety woes

Gusting high winds caused unsafe and unplayable conditions, blowing balls off greens and toppling equipment.

“We got into a situation of player safety,” tournament director Steve Rintoul said. “Safety of our volunteers and everybody else out there on the golf course was our primary reason for shutting things down.

“We had a piece of communications equipment fall down very close to some players on the 14th tee, which really makes us as a committee step back and say maybe we need to go ahead and suspend now because it gets really more dangerous out there and that was ultimately the decision.”

It was the first time wind had caused unplayable conditions to suspend a tour event since the second round of the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews.

Burns avoided dropping a shot at the par-3 sixth when his drive went into the rough near a wall. He punched out within four feet and made the putt.

His tee shot at the par-4 eighth soared left of the cart path and led to a bogey but he birdied the par-4 10th, blasting out of a greenside bunker to three feet and making the putt.

Fitzpatrick had a run of 10 holes without a par, making six birdies — including four in a row — and four birdies.

“You’ve got to plot your way around, not miss in the wrong spots,” said Fitzpatrick. “If I can avoid that tomorrow and keep making some putts I’ll have a chance.”

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