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Play resumes at windy Australian Open

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Play resumed in the final round of the Australian Open on Sunday after a three-hour delay forced by gale-force winds at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney.

Organizers announced the suspension of play at 11:45 a.m. local time (0045 GMT) after the 80 kilometer per hour winds resulted in balls moving on the greens and a TV tower collapsing at the 18th.

"It got to 80 kilometers, which was when that tower fell over," Trevor Herden, Golf Australia director of operations, told reporters.

"There is nothing we can do to protect people but to get them out of danger. We have an obligation to the public and the players. And then there is the golf course, which at that point became unplayable."

Play resumed at 2:50 p.m. (0350 GMT) with the wind still high and the added complication of a rainstorm approaching the south Sydney area.

John Senden and Britain's world number four Justin Rose will be the last players to take to the course in the leading group with the Australian holding a two-shot lead as he bids for a second title at his home Open.

Eight-times major winner Tom Watson, already well out of contention, was an early starter and scored an impressive three-under-par 69.

The American said the conditions could make the final round a lottery.

"A good score is even par," he said. "It will be interesting to see what happens. It's a really strong wind. Yesterday it blew like hell."

Herden said they would play as much golf as possible on Sunday but a Monday finish could not be ruled out.

"The leader is nearly off," he added. "We would want to finish this championship and if it means tomorrow morning, then it's tomorrow morning."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ian Ransom)

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