It’s been an interesting — perhaps the better word is “strange” — turn of events this weekend at the PGA Championship. With play suspended due to inclement weather in the area around 2pm Saturday, only 37 players finished the third round, with around 50 either still on the course or yet to tee off, including the last 5 groups (i.e. top 10 players on the leaderboard).
Players and media questioned the PGA of America’s decision to *not* start the third round with threesomes teeing off both nos. 1 and 10, given the forecast Saturday looked extremely questionable with a high chance of thunderstorms. However, PGA of America Championships Officer (set-up man) Kerry Haigh defended the decision, claiming that the weather was supposed to be similar to the first two rounds.
“It’s a major championship and we certainly try and look at starting from one tee whenever we can,” Haigh said in a presser Saturday evening. “Unfortunately the weather didn’t help us today. I think we have a similar forecast for tomorrow. Our hope is that those showers or storms hit elsewhere.”
Here we go, with the intrepid golf journalists, spitting out follow-up questions, which are quite entertaining, but it’s very “inside golf.” This exchange was particularly amusing (had to be there, have to know the questioner):
Q. After Valhalla, you said that it’s not something we are opposed to doing, in regards to going off two tees with threesomes. Now it seems like you’re suggesting that it is something that you’re opposed to doing. So I’m just trying to confirm which way we’re going on this?
KERRY HAIGH: Alex, it certainly depends on when it is in the championship. It’s something we absolutely would prefer not to do, but if it’s something that you have to do make a conclusion to a major championship, then we would certainly look at it.
But we do have Monday as an option, to continue into Monday if we need be. But our primary aim is to try and finish tomorrow evening.
Q. So did you actually discuss the possibility of doing a two-tee start yesterday, knowing what the forecast was?
KERRY HAIGH: Not significantly. As I said on the previous question, the forecast is similar to what it has been the previous two days with a chance of rain in the afternoon, summer showers. And that’s exactly what we got. Unfortunately today they hit us and yesterday they missed us.
Obviously, it’s easy to question and challenge decisions in hindsight. While I am almost certain, the forecast was significantly worse for Saturday compared to the previous two days, I sympathize that the weather changes all the time and few expected a complete wash-out/disaster after 2:14pm. But, remember, THIS IS MAJOR!
All of this was made more intriguing when the PGA of America sent a press release out at 8:30am, announcing that the final round would be played with preferred lies — also known as lift, clean and
As a result of another 6/10” of rain overnight and with the weather forecast calling for periods of heavy rain for today, tonight and tomorrow, the Final Round of the 98th PGA Championship will be played with Preferred Lies for a ball that lies on a closely mown area “through the green.” This decision was made with the objective of completing play.
Each player will be given the notice below at the start of his final round:
A ball lying on a closely mown area through the green, may be lifted without penalty and cleaned. Before lifting the ball, the player must mark its position. Having lifted the ball, the player must place it on a spot within one club-length of and not nearer the hole than where it originally lay, that is not in a hazard and not on a putting green.
A player may place his ball only once, and it is in play when it has been placed (Rule 20-4). If the ball fails to come to rest on the spot on which it was placed, Rule 20-3d applies. If the ball when placed comes to rest on the spot on which it is placed and it subsequently moves, there is no penalty and the ball must be played as it lies, unless the provisions of any other Rule apply.
If the player fails to mark the position of the ball before lifting it or moves the ball in any other manner, such as rolling it with a club, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke.
Note: “Closely mown area” means any area of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
It is thought to be the first time at a major championship that the preferred lies rule as been implemented (at least as far back as anyone in the media center can recall and some of these guys have been covering golf since waaaaay before I was born). The most similar situation (and it’s not the same at all) that was brought up dates back to 1958 at the Masters, when a local rule (embedded ball) was enacted.
At least one player applauded the PGA’s decision, according to ESPN.com’s Bob Harig.
“There’s so much element of luck involved if you don’t do that because of the amount of mud that will get on the ball as well as the inability to finish the round because of not being able to take full relief from the fairway,” Mickelson said.
“There were some spots where the only relief would end up being in the rough. I think it was a great call. I know it’s not one that is ideal. . . I think playing it up provides a chance to take the luck out of deciding the champion and also provides a possibility to really go low.”
Added Stenson: “I think there’s times where we would have preferred to play lift, clean and place. My playing partner, Martin, on the last there, he had a big chunk of mud on it and it went straight right and led to a bogey.
“It’s not fair when you get really, really lots of mud on it, so I’m pretty pleased to hear that we are going to play it up, given how wet the golf course is.”
Fine, fair enough. Just weird because it’s a major.
Meanwhile, Jason Day, who trailed 54-hole leader Jimmy Walker by one shot, had this to say about the PGA’s decision to not repair the players after the third round:
“It can work both ways. I enjoy playing in the final group with a guy that’s at the top of the leaderboard, or if I’m leading, that’s great. But once again, I get in a hole earlier than him, so if I can maybe get a couple of birdies on the par 5, that may put a bit of pressure on him to actually hit a shot coming in or down the stretch.
“It’s really unfortunate what we’ve had with the weather, because obviously everyone wants dry weather. Everyone wants to play. The way they set the PGA golf courses up, I think it’s pretty fair, but everyone wants a good test. It’s just a little unfortunate with the weather. But, you know, we’ve got to just take it as it is right now and just kind of hopefully I’m the last man standing.”
I’m honestly not trying to give the PGA a time, but it’s a bit contradictory that it was SO important for all players to start on the first tee — which golf’s governing bodies USGA and R&A have done at their championships (most recently at U.S. Open earlier this summer and it shocked everyone when the R&A broke tradition at the 2014 Open at Hoylake and sent players off both tees for the third round).
Again, the whole situation was unfortunate and it’s impossible to predict Mother Nature — I mean, today looked as bad as yesterday, but so far, so good — but it was strange to have guys playing the ball down in their third rounds at the same time as others playing it up with ball in hand for the final round. I know it has been kept consistent with the round, but the conditions were drastically different. It’s nitpicking, but I guess I’m a bit of a purist at heart (despite my age and push for golf to be more open to new tech or social media).
“It’s a major championship, and we want it to be ran and perform as a major championship,” said Haigh on Saturday evening.
Ah, what’s done is done. Let’s focus on the final round of the PGA. Henrik Stenson or Jason Day, right? Who you got? Fingers crossed the thunderstorms stay away!
Some snaps of the mud and rain this morning as we walked with JDay and Emiliano Grillo on their last two holes of the third round…