Monday, March 25, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the second hole, just like he had been making them all week, and it looked as though his march to another win at Bay Hill and the No. 1 ranking was a matter of time.
It will be today at the earliest.
Woods and Rickie Fowler were walking off the green Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when they looked over a rules official, who told them it was time to stop. The horn blew. The cloudy sky thundered. Havoc arrived.
A violent thunderstorm shook Bay Hill with gusts that topped out at 62 mph and dumped nearly 1½ inches of rain in just under two hours. It toppled TV towers, one of them behind the 10th green. Small ponds formed in the fairways, and there was even a fish — yes, a fish! — sitting in 4 inches of water on the 18th fairway.
The final round was canceled for the rest of the day to get the course dry and cleaned up. The round was to resume at 10 a.m. today.
That left two questions.
Will anyone be able to catch Woods? He had a three-shot lead over Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, Ken Duke and John Huh when play was stopped. His putting statistics have been absurd this week at Bay Hill. With that birdie putt, Woods was 11-of-12 in putts between 10 feet and 20 feet for the tournament.
And why didn’t the tour start this earlier Sunday with hopes of beating the storms? They turned out to be so severe that a tornado warning was issued.
“We just got unlucky with the weather,” said Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of competition. “That micro burst on the radar was about the size of a pinhead, but it hit us directly. Then, we got that little train situation, where if we had been 30 miles north or 30 miles south, we might have been OK.”
Russell said the tour, tournament officials and NBC Sports were involved in the decision to start on time. One reason to roll the dice might have been that final pairing of Woods and Fowler, Red vs. Orange, with the emphasis on Woods going for his PGA Tour record-tying eighth win at Bay Hill that would have returned him to No. 1 in the world for the first time since the last week of October in 2010.
“If we played early, it was going to be a tape-delay situation. People were going to know who won before it came on television, so it defeats our television partners,” he said. “They wanted to take a chance. They’ve been involved in several situations where we played early and it didn’t rain. It was just unfortunate.”
Woods already has won once this year on Monday, when Torrey Pines lost an entire day to fog.
He has won on Monday at Pebble Beach, the U.S. Open (in a playoff), The Players Championship and Memorial (rain) and the Deutsche Bank Championship, although that tournament always ends on Labor Day.
“At least we got a little activity in today, so we’re not completely stagnant,” Woods said before leaving. “We’ve dealt with this before.”
There was plenty of action on a short day, none more bizarre than Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard’s tee shot on the 10th hole somehow came to rest about 15 feet up in an oak tree, sitting between two large branches. Garcia used a cart to jump into the tree, and after a few minutes, hit a one-handed, back-handed shot back to the fairway, before jumping some 8 feet back to the ground.
William McGirt was playing his shot from the fairway bunker on the other side and had no idea what Garcia was doing.
“I knew they were looking around the tree,” he said. “I didn’t know they were looking in the tree. I looked over and Sergio is up in the air, and I’m trying to figure out what in the hell he’s going to go. He called for a club. He’s hugging the tree. And the ball comes flying out.
“Are you kidding me?”
Two holes later, the horn sounded. McGirt said Garcia handed him the scorecard and said, “I’m out of here.” Garcia earlier had taken a 9 on the par-5 sixth hole. He later said on his website his shoulder and Achilles tendon were bothering him.
Billy Horschel hit three tee shots in to the water on the sixth hole and made an 11.
Attribute that to the wind, which was gusting hard when the leaders teed off.
This marks the third time this year on the PGA Tour that a tournament finished one day later because of weather.
Along with the fog at Torrey Pines, the Tournament of Championship at Kapalua didn’t start until Monday because of unusually high wind, and the 54-hole event was completed some 29 hours after the opening tee shot. Dustin Johnson won on a Tuesday.
It will be the third Monday finish in the 35-year history of this tournament.
The storm lasted about two hours, enough time to do plenty of damage. Tournament director Scott Wellington said his staff was just starting a full inspection.
“We had some TV cameras go down,” Wellington said. “We had some fencing and so forth. All of the big structures to my knowledge — I have not been out there yet — are OK. But we want to make sure they’re sound before we put people in them. We have some other structures, smaller structures, tents and so forth that did come down.”
Lawn chairs were toppled along the 18th fairway, where fans had been anticipating a big finish with Woods in the lead. Two chairs had blown into a bunker on the 14th, and seedlings from oak trees were scattered across several greens. Bunkers were washed out.
An osprey snagged a fish along the 18th and couldn’t hold on. A fan ran across the fairway to get the fish out of the rough, and then dove headfirst across the 4-inch deep puddle in the fairway, dropping the fish. It swam for about 3 feet before going motionless.
And so the wait continues for Woods, who is going after his third win this year. Along with trying to reclaim No. 1 from Rory McIlroy, he can tie a PGA Tour record by winning Bay Hill for the eighth time. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.