For the second straight sweltering afternoon at Congressional Country Club, Tiger Woods short game helped him move up the leaderboard at the AT&T National.
Unfortunately for area golf fans, none of them were there to witness it.
Woods shot a bogey-free four under par 67 to move into a three-way tie for second place on a course that was eerily empty Saturday as spectators and non-essential tournament workers asked to stay away for safety reasons after a powerful storm Friday night left a trail of destruction in its wake.
Brendon de Jonge, meantime, shot 69 and leads the field at 7-under. Lurking just behind the Zimbabwe native is a trio that includes Woods, Bo Van Pelt, and Seung-Yul Noh, setting up a potentially thrilling Sunday in Bethesda.
With only a handful of Congressional members, media and relatives of the golfers on the grounds, this was anything but a normal weekend day on the PGA Tour.
It was similar to what we've faced when we play overseas in practice rounds or when we have dangerous summer conditions such as thunderstorms, Woods said. Ive played in front of small crowds like this, but not generally for an 18-hole competitive round.
Added de Jonge, who attended Virginia Tech: There was no buzz. It was hard to get the adrenaline going. It kind of felt like you were playing a Tuesday practice round or a qualifier.
Play had been scheduled to begin around 7 a.m. but was postponed until 1 p.m. to give workers enough time to clear as many as 40 fallen trees, hundreds of branches and other debris that had been strewn about by a fast-moving derecho that packed 70 mph winds.
It was sort of awe-striking a little bit, said Leesburg, Va., native Billy Hurley III, who is tied for fifth after carding a 66. Youre walking around and youre just like, Wow, thats crazy a storm can knock down that tree. Trees this big around just snapped.
Said Van Pelt: Those were trees that have probably been around 100 years. Theyve survived a lot of storms. The fact that this one knocked them down just shows you how powerful it was.
The decision to ban fans was a difficult but necessary one, according to Mark Russell, the PGAs vice president of rules and competition.
Several trees were snapped at the trunk in spectator areas. Power around the course was spotty and often dependent on a generator. And the roads leading up to the entrance were littered by fallen trees and large branches.
Thats very drastic decision, not allowing fans to come out, Russell said. But its in their best interest. Its a dangerous situation in the area today with the heat and storm and everything.
Tickets for Saturdays round will be honored on Sunday, according to tournament officials. Tickets can also be returned to the Tiger Woods Foundation for a refund.
Tee times on Sunday will be 11 a.m.- 1 p.m., utilizing Nos. 1 and 10.
When Mahan, who owned a two stroke lead after 36 holes, teed off Saturday, there were four people seated in the grandstand and three of them were tournament workers.
And by the time Mahan bogeyed No. 4 a short while later, Tigers charge was gathering momentum. Mahan, meantime, finished with four bogies and, as a result, enters Sunday tied with Hurley, two strokes behind de Jonge.
As Mahan faltered, Woods surged, scoring birdies on three of the first six holes, including a highlight reel chip into the cup from the rough on No. 6, eliciting a confident fist pump.
After scoring pars on each of the next three holes, Woods vaulted into second place with a birdie on No. 10, the 181-yard par-3 where the green is protected by a water hazard. He stuck his tee-shot about eight feet from the hole, then watched nervously as his putt rolled around the lip of the cup nearly a full 360-degrees before dropping in.
Woods, now ranked No. 4 in the world, has two wins on the PGA Tour this season, 73 in his career and hoisted the trophy in this tournament three years ago.
The men hell be pursuing on Sunday have one PGA victory between them and certainly will be aware that you-know-who is on the prowl.
I played myself into good shape for tomorrow, Woods said. Im happy with the way I played.