Rain for Safeway Open — what else can go wrong?
10:22 PM
Art Spander in Phil Mickelson, Safeway Open, articles, golf

By Art Spander

NAPA, Calif. — All right. We surrender. What else can go wrong?  The Niners are awful. The Giants disintegrate. Tiger pulls a fast one. And now Mother Nature has decided to punch us around.

We wanted rain, we've been complaining about a drought that’s lasted, what, 50 years? But not this weekend. Not for the first PGA Tour event of the new season.

When it was the Frys Open, weather for the tournament the last two Octobers at Silverado Country Club was exactly as autumn is supposed to be in Northern Cal, warm and most importantly dry. Then Safeway takes over and splish, splash, we were taking a bath.

When does it rain in Napa in the fall? When does it rain in Napa ever? But stage a golf tournament, and the place turns into Scotland. More umbrellas than birdies — and there were dozens of birdies. Not enough fans, certainly, but who wants to spend a Saturday getting soaked?

Johnson Wagner spent it taking the lead in a third round of the Safeway that came to an abbreviated end with darkness encroaching, greens being squeegeed and starting times for Sunday’s scheduled final round moved up some two and a half hours to escape yet another storm.

This has turned into one of those to-be-continued episodes of not so much hand-wringing drama but towel-wringing ennui. The second round, which started on Friday, finally finished on Saturday morning, Scott Piercy playing six holes to stay in first at 15-under-par, a shot in front of Wagner and Paul Casey. It was dry. But not for long.

And so the third round began — and so did the rain and wind. Wagner, 36, a three-time winner on Tour, was on Silverado’s par-5 16th hole when play was suspended.

He was at 15-under-par after going 12-under for the first 36 holes. Piercy, also through 15, and Patton Kizzire, through 16, were 14-under. Casey was 13-under through 15 holes.

The main man for attention, not competition, Phil Mickelson, did finish 54 holes, if hardly the way he or the fans — his gallery was three times the size of anybody else’s early on — had wished. 

Phil did come in with a third straight 69, and his round included an eagle three on the par-five fifth. But he closed with a bogey-six on the 18th, also a par-five. His three-round total of 207 is a tentative eight shots out of the lead.

“I did hit a lot more good drives,” said Mickelson. “The last couple of holes, when it got wet, I got stuck. I didn’t match up my speed on the greens. They’re in perfect shape and rolling true, and you can get hot on the greens. I just haven’t done it yet.”

If he doesn’t do it Sunday, he won’t do it at all. Not at the Safeway, at least. And not for a while. His next scheduled tournament is the Career Builder Challenge in February in Palm Desert, the former Bob Hope tournament. There shouldn’t be rain there.

Wagner, along with the others, had started the week on a course that was fast, the ball flying. Then came the downpour.

“It was primed to be a firm, fast, awesome event,” said Wagner, “and Friday I hit my first shot to the green and it plugged out of the rough. I couldn't believe how much water we had had overnight.”

Those who have been taking quick showers or were hesitant to water the back lawn surely are pleased with all that water. The golfers, while recognizing California’s situation, would have preferred the rain didn’t arrive until, say, Monday.

“It was so brutal out there the last few holes,” said Wagner, “I was hanging on, hitting balls to the green ... getting up and down and making par putts and really just trying to survive and make as many pars as I could — just tick them off hole by hole, okay, two more to go, let's just get this thing in."

Which they couldn’t.

“So I think it had an effect on the other players. I don't know how anybody else played, but it was difficult.” 

And very, very wet.

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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