BETHESDA, Md. — Tiger Woods played before the largest crowd of the day, even though it never topped 100. Brendon de Jonge had as many birdies – three – as people in his gallery on a strange, silent Saturday at the AT&T National.
A violent wind storm overnight that toppled dozens of trees and littered the course with limbs forced tournament officials to keep spectators and all but the essential volunteers away from Congressional for the third round. Considering the amount of debris, it was amazing they even played.
De Jonge was steady in the steamy heat for a third consecutive round in the 60s, this one 2-under-par 69 that gave him a one-shot lead over Woods, Bo Van Pelt and S.Y. Noh heading into a final round that figures to be a lot more noisy.
Woods and Van Pelt shot 67, and Noh had 69.
De Jonge, a South African going for his first PGA Tour win, made his final birdie on the 12th hole with a wedge out of the rough that climbed over a ridge and settled about 12 feet behind the cup.
It was worthy of applause, but there was only one person in the gallery to see it – Kandi Mahan, the wife of Hunter Mahan, one of De Jonge’s playing partners.
Indeed, this was a day like few others on the PGA Tour.
A few volunteers, tournament staff and club members tagged along after Woods, and provided about the only noise of the round.
They watched him and Van Pelt get off to a quick start, and then match pars on the back nine to get close to the lead.
“I told Tiger that was a Bo Van Pelt crowd, so I was used to that,” Van Pelt said. “I was very comfortable with 10 or 15 people watching me play golf.
“It was like being on the Nationwide Tour again,” Kevin Chappell said after 72 that left him 4-over.
De Jonge was at 7-under 206 and will play in the final group with Van Pelt and Woods, who is going for his third win of the year. Woods won the AT&T National the last time it was held at Congressional in 2009.
Billy Hurley, the Navy veteran who grew up in the area, had 66 and was two shots back, along with Mahan, who stumbled to 73.
Today might be a return to normal, at least with the noise, especially with Woods in the final group.
The final round will be threesomes going off both sides, giving the grounds crew even more time to clean up the course.
For Saturday, it did well to put chain saws to the toppled trees and collects the hundreds of branches scattered across the fairways and pile them up outside the ropes.
It was the debris that led officials to turn back spectators for the third round.
The Saturday tickets will be honored today, which could make it raucous.