NORTON, Mass. – There was the usual cast of characters brought into the media center here at the Deutsche Bank Championship – Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker – but all the pre-tournament hype wasn’t complete until the last visitor arrived: Stewart Williams, PGA Tour on-site meteorologist.
Laugh if you will, but Williams might be the most important man at TPC Boston at the moment. With Hurricane Earl barreling up the Atlantic and taking aim at the northeast part of the country, there’s good reason to be concerned.
“A Category 2 hurricane is serious business,” said Mark Russell, vice president of rules and competitions for the PGA Tour.
Presently, Earl is labeled Category 3, but Williams said by the time it nears New England Friday afternoon, it could be downgraded to Category 2, which means winds between 90 and 100 miles per hour.
In an effort to play as much golf as possible Friday in the first round of the championship, officials pushed up tee times so that players will begin at 7 a.m. The last tee times are 12:54, and there’s no question the afternoon wave – which includes Tiger Woods (11:42) and Phil Mickelson (12:18) – is in danger of getting the worst of the weather.
Williams said winds could start to pick up and heavy rain could move in late in the afternoon.
“We can play in a little wind. We can play in a little rain,” Russell said. “We may get lucky, who knows?”
OK, that’s the optimist speaking. But Russell emphasized that getting golf played takes a huge back seat when it comes to safety concerns – and much of those revolve around the corporate tents and chalets that dot the fairways around TPC Boston.
“The tent people told us they weren’t so much worried about the big tents,” Williams said, “but the smaller tents.”