For nine-and-a-half holes, President Bill Clinton shook hands, posed for pictures, signed autographs, kissed babies, etc. He also played some golf with Greg Norman, Scott McCarron and Humana CEO Mike McCallister at PGA West’s Palmer Private course.
While walking from eight green to nine tee, Clinton stopped to oblige some fans who wanted autographs. He looked around and called to one of his secret service agents and said, “Help me…” Not that he didn’t want to sign (he did for a few minutes), but because he’d be there until the sunset if someone didn’t intervene at some point. The fans all thanked him for supporting and reviving the tournament — which he sure has achieved. (I was here last year and the energy and buzz are like 20 times greater this time around, which is awesome.)
As you can imagine, it was a circus inside and outside the ropes. Picture the insanity that happens while Tiger Woods is playing. It was kind of like that, except much more chaotic. There’s some semblance of order when Tiger and his playing partner(s) are setting up and hitting shots. No chance of that in the President’s group today, which Norman and McCarron had accepted. I felt kind of bad for them because it was tough to concentrate with all the hoopla.
McCarron told me he and Greg were talking and saying it’s a good thing they weren’t 10- or 11-under and actually in contention.
While the foursome was in the middle of 10 fairway at around 1:30pm, the horn blew, indicating the suspension of play due to strong winds. So, unfortunately, the show was cut short. And turned out the rest of the round would be canceled due to extensive damage on all three courses.
The wind was definitely gusting at Palmer Private and coming from all directions, but it was much worse at La Quinta, where balls were blowing off greens and trees were falling. Check out this tweet from Lee Janzen’s caddie Kenny Ebalo:
The tree fell while Janzen was waiting for the green to clear, and apparently, they were coming down all over La Quinta CC. Maintenance workers were watering greens (Nos. 10 and 15, for sure) during play to try and soften them to keep balls from blowing off.
The winds were wreaking havoc at PGA West, too. Fans were evacuated from the open area, where there were concession stands serving food and beer, along with a live band playing James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett covers. One of the tents collapsed, but luckily no one was hurt. We were also evacuated from the media center, so we spent a few hours under the clubhouse, where players and caddies congregated.
Play was officially called at 2:50pm. In attempt to complete the scheduled 72-hole tournament by Sunday evening, the pro-am part of the event has been concluded. The pros will return to the courses at 7:30am Sunday to finish the third round and the final round will follow with tee times scheduled for approximately 10am-12pm off Nos. 1 and 10 at Palmer Private.
“It’s really bad,” said Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions. “They’ve got a lot of trees down. It’s a real mess. … We knew (the wind) was going to be bad, but we thought it would be something we could play with, and then the bottom fell out…it’s a dangerous situation down there and we couldn’t get started again.”
I found Steve Elkington in a corner under the clubhouse with his entourage and Elk told me about one of the caddies for the amateurs in his group, John Hoffman, getting stuck in a porta potty by the 10th hole when a gust of wind blew it over. Gross. Seriously, that might be one of my greatest fears.
“It’s a sh*tstorm out there! Literally,” said Hoffman after he had gotten cleaned up and received medical attention for a bad cut on his leg. “It was like a river of sh*t. It took so long for it to come out…it oozed. Don’t go into the bathroom that Elk tells you to go into — that’s the moral of the story.”
Luckily, two strong Samoan men, who were sitting by the 9th green, saw the porta potty go down and managed to pick it up.
Hoffman said he moved so quickly that he managed to dodge the excrement.
What a story, huh?! I think I’m going to have nightmares tonight about getting trapped in a porta potty.
Meanwhile, Mark Wilson, who had a three-way share of the lead through 36 holes, is still playing well. He was five-under through 15, 21-under total, when play was suspended.
“It’s amazing how it happened so quickly,” said Wilson, referring to the wind storm. “But we have seen it here before. We were expecting a windy day and everything, and I think we all were shaking our heads looking at each other, the playing partners and the caddies and everything, going, Wow, this is something else.”
Robert Garrigus got off to a rough start in the first round, posting a one-over 73, but has been on fire ever since. Garrigus climbed up the leaderboard yesterday, firing an eight-under 64. He’s continued to gain ground and play his way back into contention. On Saturday he was nine-under through 13 (59 watch?!) at the Nicklaus Private before play was suspended. Hopefully he’ll keep the momentum rolling Sunday morning. He’s currently tied for fourth at 16-under for the tournament.
Alright, that’s all for today. I got to see President Clinton up close and personal, so my week is now complete. Again, kudos to him (and Humana) for all that he’s done for the event.
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)