Rules Not Rain Force Carry-Over

By Mercer BaggsAugust 14, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' To borrow a quote from John McEnroe: You cannot be serious!
 
With the outcome of the 87th PGA Championship completely up in the air, play was suspended and ultimately called for the day at Baltusrol Golf Club.
 
Thunder and lightning attacked the area around 6:35 p.m. ET, forcing officials to sound the horn, thus ensuring a Monday finish.
 
It was the second suspension of the afternoon. But thats not why play wasnt completed in a timely manner. The incidents of Sunday are rooted in decisions made a long time ago.
 
PGA of America and CBS Sports officials decided to have the final twosome go out Sunday at 3:00, just as they had done in the third round. They did this knowing that there was a 50-60 percent chance of thunderstorms throughout the afternoon.
 
Given the lateness of the final tee time, even the slightest delay 'like the 39-minute setback they incurred at 2:48 ' would push the limits of daylight. And even without a delay it would have been difficult to complete play had there been a three-hole playoff.
 
There was no margin for error; therefore, flexibility should have been in order. Not so.
 
It would have been great for the powers-that-be had everything worked out and Mother Nature kept her composure. But She got all riled up and now everyone is paying the price for rigid planning.
 
I certainly asked (Saturday) to maybe go an hour earlier to try to get it in, Phil Mickelson said after being pulled off the course for a second time. I thought that last night was a bit of a struggle the last three or four holes, seeing in the light. And when we had a delay before we teed off, I knew that there was no chance of us finishing, or at least I didnt think there was.
 
The official explanation as to why tee times werent pushed up: We agreed on the start times and weve looked at the weather basically throughout the week and kept the plan that has been all along, said Kerry Haigh, managing director of tournaments for the PGA of America.
 
According to Haigh, this plan was not made Saturday night, but over a year in advance. The PGA and CBS wanted the championship to end at a certain time, that being 7:00-7:15 ' it doesnt hurt to carry over into the 60 Minutes audience ' and they had no desire to change it. Nor do they have any desire to do so in the future.
 
We certainly talked with CBS and I guess mutually agreed on what is an appropriate finish, said Haigh.
 
Haigh also said that the forecast wasnt a factor; that scattered thunderstorms had been projected throughout the week and had never materialized.
 
But forecasts earlier in the week called for no greater than a 30-percent chance of such activity; Sundays called for double that percentage.
 
If you look further to the south, they have had no activity at all, and we were within four or five miles of missing it ourselves, Haigh said. We were just unfortunate that it came too close and right on top of (us).
 
Unfortunate and now inconvenienced. The inconvenience factor is through the roof for everyone from vendors to security to journalists to players to so many other people you cant imagine.
 
Tiger Woods is the clubhouse leader at 2-under 278. Its unlikely that he will win, with three players ahead of him and two more tied with him, and all five still having the two par-5 finishing holes to play. But he now has to hang around another day ' just in case.
 
Tigers ' and everyone else's ' annoyance is others' advantage.
 
Oh, this is a tremendous advantage, I think, because we get a few extra holes to play, and hopefully calm weather after hopefully some rain, maybe soften it up a little bit, Mickelson said. That gives me one more hole over my competitors, maybe two, to possibly make birdie, as well as play without the wind.
 
Its a shame obviously that we didnt get to finish, but I didnt really want to play the last three holes into the wind, either, said Elkington, who will be teeing off on the par-3 16th when play resumes at 10:05 a.m. ET Monday.
 
Mickelson, who leads Elkington and Thomas Bjorn by one at 4 under, will face a 4-foot par putt on the 14th.
 
He was lining up his par save when playing competitor Davis Love III, who saw lightening strike in the distance, walked over and marked his ball for him. The air-horn blared soon thereafter.
 
When asked if he wished that he would have been able to putt out, Mickelson smiled, shook his head and said: Look, I love this championship, OK. But I want to live, man.
 
Bjorn is 3 under through 14 holes. Davis Love III is 2 under through 14. Vijay Singh is 2 under through 15.
 
An incredible and lively finish should be in store for Monday. But it should have come to a head on Sunday. Who knows how history may have been altered.
 
Tournament director Andy Bush said that all Sunday ticket holders, who paid nearly $100 to see the finale, will be allowed back on the grounds in the morning; however, how many of those 35,000 will actually be able to do so?
 
Were obviously disappointed for the spectators who are unable to see the finish, said Haigh, who added that the PGA has the ultimate say in determining tee times. We all wanted to see a finish, obviously. Its very disappointing.
 
You said it.
 
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