Sunday morning, absent his swing being knocked akilter by forecasted big winds, Tiger Woods was poised to extend his 2-shot lead all the way to the winner’s circle at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida. Playing alongside Rickie Fowler, one of three players at 9-under, Tiger got off to a solid start.
He hit a “stinger” with an iron off the first tee but it didn’t cut and he ended up in the left rough. Blocked by a tree and 201 yards to the hole, he hit a beautiful draw around tree into the front opening of the green. He rolled his dangerous, 39-foot putt just inside two feet and made par.
On the par-3 2nd, set up at 201 yards, he crushed an 8-iron — 8-iron! — to just short of pin high, right and a mere 11 feet away. He made the putt for birdie to get to 12-under par and extend his lead to three shots.
And then the horn blew.
What followed was an immediate evacuation of players, fans and the media tent, a tornado warning — not a watch, a warning, as in may be imminent — and enough mayhem brought on by over an inch and a half of sheets of rain and wind gusts over 60 miles per hour. There were foaming waves in the course lakes. At the Orlando airport, there was a reported gust over 80 miles per hour.
Early on, rules official, Mark Russel, said that Bay Hill was built on sand and should drain quickly once the rain stopped. But as the pelting continued, it soon became apparent that there was too much damage to be cleaned up. Just checking and restoring all the bunker faces alone would be a large task.
So the round was suspended until Monday morning at 10 AM (Eastern).
Tiger and company better hope that the course drains well over night because they won’t be able to play lift, clean and place. Since the early tee times weren’t afforded that advantage, nobody may have that advantage. It would be a shame to see a tournament decided by mud balls, but it would be no different than if all of this had happened in the same day. The luck of the draw, the players call it. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.
As for Tiger, “At least we got a little activity in today, so we’re not completely stagnant. 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.”
Barring green damage, the pins will all be in the same places, of course, and will hold shots like darts. So if the drives don’t pick up mud, it could be a real turkey shoot. The low round of the day was 5-under by Bubba Watson before the winds got up too much. William McGirt had it to 4-under through 12 when the horn blew. But these two were the exceptions; most were no more than a couple under par.
So what could be possible for Monday? Who knows, but those are some of the data points that will go into determining what might be possible. I think the players will be thinking turkey shoot.
It will certainly be worth setting the DVR.
And finally all of this impacts the Tavistock Cup, the annual two-day event which this year has expanded to include six home (or represented) communities of Tour players. Monday will consist of four players in four pairings playing a medal better-ball format that will not count towards the Cup totals.
When those hung up at Bay Hill are available on Tuesday, the event will be reduced to an 18-hole stroke-play event that will determine the winner of the Cup.
The Golf Channel’s Monday coverage will immediately follow the conclusion of play at Bay Hill.