Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president for rules and operations, knew rain was going to fall at the BMW Championship on Sunday. He just didn’t know how much.
The PGA Tour deals with weather issues all year long, and usually has the answer to minimizing the problems related to them. That wasn’t the case in the circuit’s first visit to Conway Farms in Lake Forest.
After Saturday’s third round White’s staff checked the weather forecasts. It called for about half the rain that pelted the course on Sunday and forced the suspension of the final round of the $8 million championship.
“We thought to was going to be about six hours of maybe constant rain, but just an accumulation of maybe a half an inch,’’ said White. “That’s not too much in a six-hour period. To me it was almost like a mist.’’
So the PGA Tour staff set time times similar to Saturday – all players off the first tee in twosomes beginning at 7:15 a.m. instead of sending them off in threesomes off both Nos. 1 and 10 to condense the playing time required.
White arrived at 6 a.m. on Sunday and it didn’t take long for him to realize the rain might be more than just a mist.
Play started on time but had to be suspended at 10 a.m. It resumed at 1:31 p.m. but was stopped again at 2:28 when puddles formed on the greens and fairways and in the bunkers. White and his staff went back out at 4 p.m. after the rain had subsided in hopes of getting the players back on the course. He was surprised again.
“It wasn’t even close to what we had when we started at 1:30. That was the reason there was no sense in going back out,’’ said White. “This course drains well, but Mother Nature just won’t give us a break as far as shutting this faucet off.’’
He scheduled the resumption of play for 8 a.m. on Monday, and Golf Channel will pick up coverage at 9 a.m.
White expects better weather on Monday when 64 of Sunday’s 70 starters will take to the course. Only six finished their final rounds before play was suspended for the day and 22 hadn’t even teed off. That group included leader Jim Furyk, who is scheduled to tee off in the last twosome at 9:40 a.m. on Monday.
Vince Pellegrino, vice president, tournaments for the Western Golf Assn., said gates would open at 7 a.m. on Monday and that anyone with a Sunday ticket would be allowed to return on Monday. Tickets will also be on sale, at the full price of $55. Some hospitality venues will be open.
Parking options may have to be adjusted, based on how the designated lots handled Sunday’s one inch-plus rainfall.
“We had a great week through Saturday,’’ said Pellegrino. “It’s just one of those things that’s unavoidable. We’re anticipating having a good-sized crowd (on Monday). We will have public transportation, the shuttles to and from Metra, as well.’’
Barring a playoff, White expects the tournament to be completed in six hours. He’s expecting scattered lake showers in the morning with sunshine peeking through as the day progresses.
The BMW Championship, first PGA Tour event ever at Conway Farms and first on Chicago’s North Shore since 1972, is the 22nd event of the season that has had delays in play for various reasons – fog, lightning, thunderstorms, snow, hail, sleet, frost, darkness, high winds.
Now a roving tournament after being an annual Chicago event until 2007, the BMW Championship has had suspensions in six of the last nine years. The last without a suspension was in 2011 at Cog Hill, in Lemont.
This season the PGA Tour has had two previous unscheduled Monday finishes – the Farmers Insurance Open because of fog and the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of thunderstorms.
Players competing for the biggest monetary prize in golf will have their travel plans altered thanks to this latest Monday finish. The top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings after the BMW Championship advance to the final stop in the four-event series, The Tour Championship that tees off on Thursday at East Lake in Atlanta.
All three of the FedEx Cup Playoff events this year have had a suspension in play, but only the BMW Championship was forced to finish a day later than scheduled.