With the wrath of Hurricane Irene expected to ravage the New Jersey area on Saturday night and the storms on Thursday morning that suspended first-round play at The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club for four hours and six minutes, Tour officials are weighing the options for play over the weekend and just finishing the first leg of the FedExCup playoffs.
Slugger White, vice president of rules and competition for the PGA Tour, ruled out the possibility of a 36-hole finish on Saturday.
“For one thing, we don’t have enough daylight,” said White during a presser on Thursday evening at Plainfield. “We can’t get it in. Plus, we don’t have a very good forecast Saturday afternoon.”
However, the Tour is not ruling out cutting the tournament to 54 holes (instead of 72).
“There’s a scenario out there (to reduce it to a 54-hole event),” said White. “It could be there, but not right now.”
Governor Chris Christie has declared a state of emergency in New Jersey and urged residents not to take the storm lightly. Why not cancel The Barclays? Well, that’s simple — Barclays and FedEx are important sponsors (which I understand and agree that every option should be explored and canceling is a last resort) and the playoffs are mega important.
The Barclays will be contested — even if that calls for a Tuesday finish. With next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship not starting until Friday (because of Labor Day weekend), it gives the Tour some leeway.
“The only time we would ever go to Tuesday is if we got half the field finished on Monday,” said White. “Now, in order to go to Tuesday, if we didn’t get to that, then the Commissioner would have to step in and override the regulation. He’s the only one that could do that unilaterally so I’ve got him on fast dial right now.”
At the moment, officials are hoping to get in 36 holes and make a cut by Friday night. And then by noon tomorrow they’ll have a much clearer idea of what the weather Saturday and Sunday will bring.
Another factor to consider is how much more water the golf course can handle. It was already drenched by 13 inches of rain last week.
“I just can’t imagine what another five to seven inches of rain is going to do,” said White. “I can’t pat (the superintendent and groundskeepers) on the back enough. They’ve done a great job.”
Players who have finished the first round said some of the greens are already having trouble handling the precipitation.
“The course is very soft,” said Harrison Frazar, the leader in the clubhouse after firing a seven-under 64. “The fairways are plugging. There was mud on the balls. The shots into the greens are just hitting and just stopping where they are. If they have got any spin on them at all, they are pulling.
“I would say that 16 of the holes are fine and could probably take more, but 13 and 14, I don’t know how much more these greens can take. That creek in there I think can get up pretty quickly.”
Meanwhile, officials are planning to pull down some of the tents, scoreboards, stands and TV towers for safety purposes. (To my understanding, there are concerns about the luxury boxes on 18, which will need to be taken apart.)
“They haven’t had an earthquake here in a hundred years and they haven’t had a hurricane here in 90 years, and they’re having both in the same week, so that’s pretty special,” said White, chuckling. “Welcome to New Jersey.”
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)