Weather delays and stop-start nature of Players a real test for the field

PGA faces a big challenge to get showpiece tournament finished by Tuesday

Whoever ultimately gets to pocket the €3.3 million winner's cheque at The Players may have to play the long game, quite literally, with the prospect of a first-ever Tuesday finish to the PGA Tour's flagship tournament at TPC Sawgrass in Florida a real possibility.

For the second day running, the weather gods conspired to disrupt scheduling.

After two stoppages in Thursday’s opening round, approximately four hours of player was possible on Friday morning before further heavy rainfall waterlogged the course – and made the use of squeegees by greenstaff obsolete – and caused a further postponement of play with 48 players, among them Rory McIlroy, unable to complete their first rounds.

There have been seven occasions when The Players dragged on to a Monday conclusion because of inclement weather – in 1974, 1976, 1981, 1983, 2000, 2001 and most recently in 2005 – and, whilst the PGA Tour is intent on attempting to try and finish this 54-hole event on Monday, there is a strong possibility, given the weather forecast for the weekend, that it may stretch into Tuesday.

As Gary Young, the PGA Tour’s chief referee, observed: “The potential is there, but let’s hope no. I think everything that we’re looking at, we feel very confident that we can finish this tournament by Monday . . . . it’s highly, highly unusual to have this [weather] pattern for this prolonged period this time of year, looking back at the historical data on it. I would say at this point it’s just bad luck.”

Unfortunately, while the heavy rainfall of the opening two days is expected to abate, the front is anticipated to bring other weather woes in the form of very strong winds through Saturday followed by a dramatic lowering of temperatures.

“At this point, we’re just battling, trying to make up for lost time. We also know that the conditions we’re going to be facing [on Saturday] with the winds that are predicted, the pace of play is going to be slower as well. So we’re trying to factor all of this in our projections,” added Young.

Sand wedge

Tommy Fleetwood and Tom Hoge, who had finished their rounds with six-under-par 66s on Thursday, were joined on that mark by Brice Garnett – who holed out from 96 yards for an eagle two on the Par 4 fourth – who had completed 13 holes of his round when the siren sounded after some four hours of play possible on Friday morning.

“Just from watching the coverage [on television on Thursday] , I noticed how much the ball was spinning. I think we had about 96 yards, and we just took a bunch of spin and speed off of a sand wedge. My caddie said, ‘just land it a little past and right. I actually thought it missed. So I was like ‘I can’t believe that I just missed that’. I looked back up, and it disappeared. It was a great surprise,” said Garnett of his hole-out, which proved to be his last act as play was suspended as he made his way to the fifth tee.

Séamus Power, too, had an eagle – in his case by the more planned route in reaching the green of the Par 5 second in two and sinking a 30 footer – in getting to one-under-par through 14 holes of his round before being called in.

Shane Lowry had birdied two of his last three holes on Thursday evening to sign for a one-over-par 73 and McIlroy, who restarted his first round on the third, getting off to a flying start with birdies on the third and fourth, then hit speed bumps with bogeys on the sixth, 10th and 14th to slump back to one-over through 14 holes when he was among those to hear the siren's call.

The stop-start nature off the tournament along with the weather conditions is set to make for a test of fortitude as much as shot-making in the coming days.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times