Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

‘Greatest day of golf in years’ despite the deluge at Valhalla PGA

Washout: Play was suspended for almost two hours on Sunday after a torrential downpour made the course unplayable
Washout: Play was suspended for almost two hours on Sunday after a torrential downpour made the course unplayable

Tournament officials insist they have no regrets about their handling of the final day of the US PGA Championship, which finished in near-darkness and unusual circumstances at Valhalla. “I thought it was the greatest day of golf that we've seen in years and I could not be more pleased about the excitement,” Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's chief championships officer said.

A torrential downpour which flooded the course and caused play to be suspended for almost two hours meant the final pairing of Rory McIlroy and Bernd Wiesberger did not tee off until 4:19pm (9.19pm BST) on Sunday.

That meant a race against time to finish before darkness fell in Louisville, so much so that Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler stood aside on the 18th hole to allow the final group to tee off.

The fact that rain had been forecast on an already saturated golf course raised questions as to why tee times were not brought forward or play started from two tees, as was the case in the third round of the Open at Royal Liverpool last month.

“The forecast for Sunday was the same as the forecast for Saturday, which was a reasonable chance of showers and they could be sporadic and either hit us or miss us,” Haigh said.

“Unfortunately the one that hit us was literally only three miles wide but moved very slowly. We got three quarters of an inch of rain and the course was obviously saturated. But no, there was no real consideration given to moving the tee times forward.

“There have been occasions where we have split tees in the PGA Championship. Hazeltine, I believe, in 2009 we split tees after a rain delay. So it's not something that we are opposed to doing.

“If there was a huge front coming through that was absolutely guaranteeing rain, we would consider the best option for the running of a Major championship.”

Ian Poulter was one of the players to complain about being forced to take relief from casual water by dropping the ball in the semi-rough, but Haigh added: “It's unfortunate and it's tough on everyone. Nobody likes playing in the casual water and with mud on the balls. But it's part of the game.”

In the end, the conditions arguably contributed to a thrilling conclusion which saw a five-way tie for the lead on the front nine and McIlroy eventually come from three shots down to win his second major title in the space of four weeks.

“I think it's wonderful golf for the people who watched it, how enthused they would be, thinking ‘Hey, I want to play that game',” Haigh added.

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