AVONDALE, La. – The Zurich Classic weather delay is approaching the four-hour mark when another lightning bolt flashes across the sky outside the clubhouse at TPC Louisiana.
Water bottles are scattered all around the fringe of the practice green, left behind as players doubled back to stay dry. A caddie who hasn’t moved in more than 15 minutes is sitting in a rocking chair on the patio and makes a soft snoring sound, perking up only after hearing the voice of a Golf Channel anchor giving an on-air update just a few yards away.
The grounds are mostly empty and have been since Round 1 play was first suspended at 9:41 a.m. CT due to dangerous weather, with the team-format event on hold for most of Thursday.
The players aren’t really sure what the plan is during the early afternoon, with tournament officials hoping to squeeze a few more holes in before the end of the day. They just know what this means for the rest of the tournament.
“It turns into a long week,” said Adam Scott, who got to the course around 5:30 a.m. and played seven holes with partner Jason Day prior to the delay.
Play finally resumed following a 7-hour, 33-minute delay, at which point the morning wave tried to get as many holes as possible in under the remaining two hours of daylight.
Several groups were able to finish their opening rounds before the final horn blew at 7:35 p.m., with Scott Stallings and Trey Mullinax ahead by one shot after an 11-under 61 in best-ball format. Brian Gay and Rory Sabbatini were one back at 10 under through 14 holes, while Martin Laird/Nick Taylor finished their round at 10 under.
Scott and Day were T-8 at 7 under through 16 holes.
The plan is to resume Round 1 at 7 a.m. CT Friday, with players who never teed off Thursday beginning their rounds at 7:15 a.m. Round 2 will get going at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Tournament director Steve Worthy was busy pacing the halls of his office on property early Thursday afternoon, at which point he knew that finishing Rounds 1 and 2 by Friday wasn’t likely.
“It looks like if we play the expected golf (late Thursday), it would still carry in to Saturday,” Worthy said. “It sounds like we should be back on schedule by the end of the day Saturday.”
That means another 7 a.m. start Friday, with players who complete their rounds early coming back hours later to start a second round they won’t finish until Saturday morning.
“You need to try not to get too tight, but (after) four hours you’re probably warming up like you would for a whole new round again,” Scott said. “In and out of the fitness trailer and a few minutes on the bike. It’s frustrating and it’s never good because the course ends up playing very differently, very soft, but these things happen.”
An on-site PGA Tour tournament director makes the final call on weather delays and restarts, with input from other rules officials. Worthy is then responsible for all the logistics such as evacuating players from the course and keeping fans, volunteers and employees safe.
“The (players) get frustrated, but they deal with it better than we do because they know it’s part of the game, part of the business,” Worthy said. “We want our one week to go perfectly and they deal with it maybe 15 times a year.”
It was mostly quiet inside the clubhouse as players waited things out Thursday afternoon. They were scattered across the main room at tables and in lounge chairs, a few sitting on the floor, some talking in small groups but others appearing zoned out. One imagines that years ago the rain-delay atmospheres were a bit livelier, the sounds of shuffled card decks and thick clouds of smoke in the air.
“Now everyone buries their head in a cell phone or an iPad,” Scott said. “But actually, in saying that, I (just) caught up with (fellow Aussie John Senden) for the last hour and a half having a good chat with him. There’s something to be said for that.”
There’s also something to be said for tedious days when the life of a PGA Tour player doesn’t look so glamorous.