LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A long day at the PGA Championship ended in the dark with a deserving champion. But it was how we got there that will be talked about in the aftermath of Rory McIlroy’s fourth major victory.
Because of a 1 hour, 51 minute rain delay Sunday afternoon, the final two groups played the18th hole as night fell over Valhalla, and almost as a foursome.
“I suggested that we play up as a four. I didn’t know if they wanted to do that or not. You know, to get this thing finished; and (Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson) didn’t need to do that, they could’ve just left us on the tee box and just play normally, but they showed a lot of class and a lot of sportsmanship by doing that,” said McIlroy.
Letting players in groups behind yours tee off is a common occurrence when darkness is falling, because being off the tee when the horn blows gives players the option to finish the hole. The confusion in this instance came on the approach shots.
Fowler and Mickelson gave McIlroy and playing companion Bernd Wiesberger the go-ahead to hit their approach shots before they putted out … unless they didn’t.
“I believe from the official that Rickie and Rory spoke about playing up on the second shot,” said Kerry Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA. “If the players agree to it, then certainly the officials allowed it.”
Fowler disagreed with this notion, though he stopped short of placing blame on the situation for letting another major slip though his fingers.
“We were cool with hitting the tee shot. We weren’t expecting the approach shots,” he said. “In a way they never got out of rhythm as far as hitting the golf shots. Like I said, I don’t think it really changes much.”
Of course, the whole situation was caused by the rain delay, which occurred at 12:53 p.m. ET. On the heels of the R&A moving up tee times and going off split tees at last month’s British Open for the first time in 143 years to avoid storms, Haigh was asked why the PGA didn’t adopt a similar approach.
“The forecast today was the same as the forecast yesterday, and the forecast yesterday was a reasonable chance of showers and they could either hit us or miss us,” said Haigh. “There was no real consideration given to moving the tee times forward.”