LOS ANGELES — Sam Burns watched his 5-shot lead shrink to two in a matter of two holes late Saturday afternoon at Riviera, reason to feel discouraged until realizing no one had it any easier at the Genesis Invitational.
Riviera is enough of a test on its own. Throw in raging wind that caused a four-hour delay, and it was tough on everyone.
Burns went 31 consecutive holes with a bogey, a streak that ended on No. 8. When the third round was halted by darkness, he made back-to-back bogeys that dropped him to 10-under par, two shots ahead of Matt Fitzpatrick.
The third round was to resume early Sunday.
“Even the downwind holes weren’t that much easier because it was hard to stop it there on the green,” Burns said. “Just not a lot of opportunities out there today.”
It was the first time a PGA Tour event was suspended by high wind since Torrey Pines in 2016, when only 23 players finished the final round before a 40 mph gust toppled trees and blew windows out of tents.
This wind Saturday was strong enough to blow Keegan Bradley‘s putt off the 10th green, and it nearly blew Homa’s splendid 5-iron into the par-5 first, leaving a tap-in eagle.
When play resumed, it wasn’t much easier.
Only eight of 67 players managed to hit the green on the 242-yard fourth hole. The par-3 14th was playing at 189 yards downwind, leaving players 8-iron and 9-irons. Only 10 hit that green.
“It’s very difficult no matter into the wind, downwind,” Johnson said. “It’s just really hard to judge the distance. But I feel like I’m playing pretty solid. Hadn’t really made any putts, but I’m pleased with where I’m at.”
Burns, the 24-year-old from Louisiana going for his first PGA Tour victory, starts Sunday on the 14th hole.
“It’s a hard course with no wind,” Burns said.
Fitzpatrick had a most bizarre round by going 10 consecutive holes without a par — six birdies, four bogeys.
“This golf course does it to you,” Fitzpatrick said. “You’ve really got to stick in, you’ve got to plot your way around and miss in the right areas, even missing fairways in the right areas with this wind to give you a bit better angle. On the whole, you’ve just got to be really smart around this place.”
Tiger Woods showed up right about the time play was halted. Woods is the tournament host and is not playing as he recovers from a fifth back surgery.
The wind was blowing golf balls on the green, and then the PGA Tour said a piece of communications equipment toppled near the 14th tee and they brought everyone in.
Not much changed with the wind when they resumed. Everyone was dropping shots and hanging on for dear life.
Johnson had three bogeys against three birdies and was only 3 shots behind. The greens were so firm, the wind whipping so hard, that even from 99 yards away on the 13th hole he landed the ball some 50 feet short and hoped it rolled out enough to give him a chance.
Spieth opened with two birdies, including a 40-footer on the third hole. But he hit two fairway bunkers on the seventh and eighth holes that led to bogey, missed a 3-footer on the 12th and his chip on the 15th was a little firm, and with the wind and slope it rolled out some 40 feet. He dropped 6 shots behind.
For so much of the day, Burns looked impervious to it all. He opened with a steady dose of pars, including one amazing escape on the par-3 sixth, where his tee shot was close to a boundary fence. He played it into the rough and onto the back of the green, and the ball rolled down to 3 feet.
But he missed an 18-foot par putt on No. 8, ending his streak of bogey-free holes. Burns missed a short birdie on the ninth, hit a superb bunker shot for a tap-in birdie on the 10th and stretched his lead back to 5 shots.
It all changed so quickly.
He three-putted from 50 feet on the 12th. And then his wedge on the 13th was far enough left that it caught a ridge and rolled down a bank into the rough. He chipped to 6 feet and missed the par putt.
That’s when play was stopped.
Fitzpatrick made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to reach 8 under, and suddenly was 2 shots behind. Fitzpatrick was at 3 under for the day through 17 holes, the low score of the round so far.
Only 12 other players were under par for their rounds, none better than 2 under. The average score when play was suspended was 73.3.