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Play postponed at La Quinta due to strong winds

(Reuters) - Play was suspended at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California on Saturday because of strong winds and sand storms in the Coachella Valley with the unfinished third round spilling over into Sunday.

Organizers said third-round play would resume at 7.30am local (1530 GMT) before Sunday's final round gets underway from 10am (1800 GMT).

"Unfortunately we had a real dangerous situation at La Quinta," PGA Tour rules official Slugger White told reporters. "We couldn't get started down there again.

"We knew it was supposed to get bad, but we thought it was going to be something we could play with, probably 10 to 20-mile-an-hour winds, maybe gusts up to 25. And then the bottom just fell out on us."

American Mark Wilson, one of three leaders overnight, was three shots in front at 21 under par after 15 holes at La Quinta Country Club, one of three venues hosting the pro-am celebrity event.

Compatriot Ben Crane was alone in second, after 12 holes at La Quinta, with another American, Zach Johnson, a further stroke back at 17 under after 13 holes on the Nicklaus Private course.

Gusts of up to 35mph (56kph) blew across La Quinta, resulting in several trees being toppled with palm fronds strewn over the par-72 layout.

Organizers decided to halt play at all three courses for safety reasons and the players and fans were relocated to the driving ranges or clubhouses. A scoreboard was blown into a lake on the Palmer layout but no fans were injured at any of the venues, Organizers said.

PLAY ABANDONED

After a break of more than an hour, officials decided to abandon play for the day and resume the third round on Sunday.

"The mandate is to finish on time on Sunday, and that's what we're trying to do, 72 holes," White said.

"We may be here Monday, hopefully not, but there could be a chance we are. So that's always in the mix. The weather forecast (for Sunday) is good."

Wilson, joint leader overnight with Crane and David Toms, made a storming start to the third round after teeing off at the par-four 10th, birdies at the 11th and 12th and an eagle at the par-five 13th briefly putting him four strokes clear.

Though he bogeyed the 14th, he picked up further shots at the 15th and the sixth before play was suspended as he prepared to tee off at the par-three seventh.

"Standing on that seventh tee, 157 yards, having no idea where the wind's going, pin tucked over the water, when they blew the horn I wasn't that disappointed," Wilson said.

"It is what it is. We're used to this on the PGA Tour with the weather, whether it's lightning, rain, wind, fog delays."

Asked if his strategy would change with 21 holes still to play in regulation, Wilson replied: "With this (pro-am) format and these golf courses, you've just got to make a lot of birdies.

"I'm in front but I've got to keep making birdies to win this thing."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Tony Jimenez and Julian Linden)

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