ORLANDO, Fla. – Mother Nature might be the only thing that can stop Tiger Woods this week at Bay Hill.
Mere minutes after Woods poured in a birdie putt on the second hole to extend his lead from two shots to three, a batch of severe storms tore through the area Sunday afternoon, sending players and spectators to flee for safety and pushing the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational to a Monday finish.
Play was initially suspended at 2:03 p.m. ET, then called for the day about two hours later after officials deemed the course unsuitable for play. Forty-three players have yet to complete their fourth round.
The final round will resume live on Golf Channel at 10 a.m. Monday, when the forecast calls for a high of 72 degrees and sunny skies.
Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition, said the main issues at Bay Hill are standing water and debris in the bunkers, after 1.4 inches of rain fell in a span of two hours.
“It got to the point where we weren’t going to be able to get the golf course ready,” Russell said. “We just got unlucky with the weather.”
“At least we got a little activity in today, so we’re not completely stagnant,” Woods said. “We’ve dealt with this before. We had that fog delay in San Diego, and this is part of playing outside. We’ve got to deal with conditions like this.”
Soon after the horn sounded, heavy rain began to pound Bay Hill, with wind gusts recorded up to 55 mph. Players crammed into the dining room to wait out the worst of the weather, but the power soon went out in the clubhouse.
It was so dangerous at Bay Hill, the golf press evacuated the media center because there was some concern that the tent would collapse. At the Orlando airport, about 20 minutes from here, officials recorded wind gusts up to 86 mph.
On Saturday night, Russell met with tournament officials to determine whether to move up tee times in hopes of dodging the inclement weather. Ultimately, they continued as planned, with the final group teeing off at 1:40 p.m.
“We live in the present moment here,” Russell said, when pressed about the decision. “There was a 50-50 chance, and we decided to try it. We were unfortunate that it didn’t happen. We just got unlucky today.”
Woods is in pursuit of his eighth victory at this event, and if he wins, he will return to world No. 1 for the first time since October 2010.