After Tiger Woods birdied No. 2 at Bay Hill to get to 12-under and take a three-shot lead over Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Ken Duke and John Huh, the horn sounded at 2:03pm on Sunday, signaling that play had been suspended.
Woods’ quest to regain his rightful position atop the rankings was delayed by monstrous thunderstorms. There was a tornado warning — and I’m pretty sure that was my first experience in a mini-tornado, which was pretty much just as frightening as I envisioned — followed by gusts up to 52mph and heavy rain showers.
At around 4pm EST, PGA Tour officials announced that play was finished for the day due to the storm damage and standing water caused by the 1.4 inches of rain that sopped the course over the last few hours. The 43 players yet to complete their final rounds will return to their positions at 10am EST Monday.
This is the sixth weather delay of the season and the third time an event has finished a day later than scheduled (Hyundai Tournament of Champions ended on Tuesday due to strong winds and the Farmers Insurance Open wrapped up on Monday due to fog delays).
The storm made pools in fairways and bunkers — there was even a fish spotted in the 18th fairway — and destroyed tee signs and tents. The TV tower behind 10 green toppled over.
“We just got so much rain and wind; we’ve got some bunker problems; we’ve got a lot of standing water; that is the main thing,” said Mark Russell, the Tour’s VP of Rules and Competition. “It just got to the point where we weren’t going to be able to get the golf course ready. I mean, they’re going to go out now and work till dark, and then do the same thing at daybreak in the morning and try to get ready to play.
Russell estimated that there was still three hours and 40 minutes of golf left.
Tiger, the defending champion, is seeking his eighth win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He only hit six shots before he was driven off the course to safety.
“At least we got a little activity in today, so we’re not completely stagnant,” said Woods after play was called for the day. “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.”
Some have wondered why the Tour didn’t send the players out early in the morning off both Nos. 1 and 10 tees.
“We live in the present moment here,” said Russell. “We talked about that yesterday. We had a 50/50 chance, and we decided to try. We were unfortunate that it didn’t happen. But that was an option, but we decided to play off one tee and the weather got us…
“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. 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.”
Well, good news is there’s tons of basketball to watch today. Bad news is everyone’s travel plans are messed up.
(AP Photos/Phelan M. Ebenhack)