Rain Delays

Yet another opportunity to employ the principles of mastery. The first round of the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii was postponed Thursday due to heavy rains that left the course a sea of standing water.

So you wouldn’t think it would be such a big deal. Time out…day off…back to work. It’s not quite that simple. Just as in all their pre-shot routines, tour players are creatures of habit. And that extends to their pre-round activities, their pre-tournament activities. I can remember Monday qualifying for the Newport Beach Champions Tour event one year where it rained all day Sunday. “Horrors! I can’t play Monday without hitting balls on Sunday!”

Luckily, when a local range that was supposed to be covered wasn’t, I remembered a double-decker driving range up in Manhattan Beach where I’d practiced for the LA Tournament the year before. So I drove 39 miles up there only to discover that, while it had two levels, the bottom one was not undercover. But they thought there might have been one back south so I turned around and went back that way. Same problem. But with the rain finally letting up, at least I got to hit balls for a couple of hours. All in all, I must have put over 80 miles on that car that day. It was either commitment or insanity. I’m going with commitment.

The guys at Waialae have it even worse: the range was closed all day Wednesday and then Thursday. They were concerned that all the balls would plug in the soft ground and they’d never be able to recover them.

Moreover, the course is very close to sea level, so as the greens crew attempts to pump the water out of the bunkers, at high tide they fill back up again. And that doesn’t even begin to deal with the fairways.

So they are hoping to be able to play today if they can get the course cleaned up. And to get all 72 holes in, they will change the cut line from 70 and ties down to 60 and ties and then play 36 holes on Sunday…rain permitting.

So as you’re sitting in the hotel room with the first tee time at 7:10 AM Friday morning, your routine run-up to the first day is in tatters and you now have to figure out a way to beat 84 guys from a standing start just to make the cut.

So you go to the Weather Channel website and find out that sunrise isn’t until 7:12, two minutes after your tee time. How much dawn will you get to putt and at least hit a couple of balls? And how crowded will the range be with all the guys in the later times trying to play catch-up?

Then you look at the hour-by-hour forecast and see that they’re calling for an 80% chance of rain all night long and a 70% chance all through the day. Will they even be able to play if more rain gets dumped on the course? Will the tee times be pushed back, forcing the tournament to go to a Monday finish? Or how about getting reduced to just 54 holes? What time should I get up? You can’t afford to do anything else but get up as if you’re going to go at the scheduled time.

And that’s why rain delays can be physically and emotionally draining. You get up at 4:30 in the morning, go through your pre-round preparation and get yourself to the course ready to warm-up by 6:30, not knowing if you’re going to play…or be delayed for hours…or for another whole day. And with that kind of forecast, you don’t even want to think about the tournament getting cancelled…but you do. In February, 1996, Pebble Beach was cancelled and not rescheduled and in ’98 the final round was postponed until September!

Some players at Waialae are going stir crazy, going to two movies in a day, going out to eat, taking the kids to the aquarium, going for a workout just to burn off some energy. And some, like Jamie Lovemark, managed to sneak out incognito to a public driving range.

The experienced players have been through all of this before. They know that the luck of the draw holds true, not only for the tee times, but for the weather too. You know that while you may have a less than desirable early time, if you get to play, at least you’ll get your round in while the afternoon guys will have to suspend mid-round and finish the next day.

You know that everybody has to play the same sloppy golf course; there won’t be any “better” time window for one or the other. I remember a qualifier in Kansas City where a friend was huddled in his car for two hours with his wife in heavy rain waiting to play at his first-thing tee time, while I whiled away the hours in my warm hotel room checking in by phone. On the other hand, while we both managed to finish our rounds, I missed my flight out that night. After I got back to the hotel from dinner, I remember the night turning silver with lightning as the huge thunderstorms began again and I wondered if I could get home in the morning.

Over time, it all balances out. So you just have to be masterful: just be with what is, accept it and do the best you can when you get your chance. Everything else is just a waste of time.

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