BETHESDA, Md. -- A Marine in full uniform stood on the first tee at Congressional CC at 1 p.m. on Saturday, ready to announce the first threesome of the day at the AT&T National. He was only doing it for a crowd of about 30 people.
"Welcome to the AT&T National," the Marine said. "This is the 1 o'clock starting time."
George McNeill, Greg Owen and Brian Harman and their caddies all stood on the tee box, ready to play without a hint of a gallery. For them, frankly, it's not all that different from most rounds on the PGA Tour, but this was a unique circumstance.
A fierce storm, in weather parlance known as a "derecho," blew through the D.C. are around 10:30 p.m. last night, bringing with it 70-80 mph winds and a small amount of driving rain. The result was about 40 downed trees at the host course, tons of debris on the course, fallen structures and a lot of overnight work for a crew of about 60 people to get the course ready for play.
At 9 a.m., the PGA Tour made the call to play today. Only one player was on the range at that point: D.A. Points, who had missed the cut and was only at Congressional because the practice range at nearby TPC Avenel had been equally ravaged by the storm.
Nevertheless, the field began to file in to Congressional, preparing to play in threesomes off both tees from 1-3:10 p.m, when leader Hunter Mahan, Brendon de Jonge and Jimmy Walker will be the last group off No. 1.
This first group, however, kicked things off. With seemingly no one around, McNeill was first to play. When the noise of a chainsaw blasted through the air from down the hole, McNeill incredulously backed off his shot. Everyone laughed. What else was there to do?
Meanwhile on the 10th tee, Jim Furyk was getting ready to start his round. Unlike his peers on No. 1, he is used to large galleries. This was a bit unnerving.
"In a group of 1,000 people, if someone does something, it's hard to see it," he said. "If a guy picks his nose today, I'll see him."