Damage From Thunderstorms Keep Spectators Out Of PGA Tour AT&T National Saturday
The PGA Tour AT&T National drew 48,611 fans to Congressional Country Club yesterday for the tournament's final round, a day after the damage from thunderstorms Friday “left organizers to stage the event without fans allowed on the course,” according to Barry Svrluga of the WASHINGTON POST (7/2). In DC, Zachary Holden notes spectators arriving at Congressional yesterday were “greeted by tennis court fences bent in from the hurricane force winds Friday night.” Tournament Dir Greg McLaughlin said, “We wanted to focus on cleaning all of the debris outside the ropes.” He said organizers “had to get the hospitality tent in shape” before they would allow fans back in. Tickets for Saturday’s round “were honored Sunday,” and a refund will be “offered to those who had tickets for both weekend rounds” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/2). Svrluga noted the thunderstorms “felled at least 40 trees on Congressional’s grounds,” and tournament organizers “made the decision early Saturday morning … to close the course to fans and most of the 2,000 volunteers used to conduct the event.” The debris was “just too significant, and potentially too hazardous, with broken limbs across the course hanging delicately, as if waiting to fall on passersby.” McLaughlin: “From a safety standpoint, it made sense because you’re talking about 25-30,000 people, and then you’re talking about 2,000 volunteers. You have to be so far out in front of that.” Svrluga noted one tree "fell across the 14th fairway,” and another “blocked the 18th fairway.” Woods on Saturday said, “It was amazing today that we got it in. The staff, maintenance crew, all the volunteers picking up twigs and getting everything cleared up so we could give it a go today was an amazing effort" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/1).
THE SOUND OF SILENCE: PGA Tour officials said that they “believed this was the first time fans hadn’t been allowed into a Tour event.” In N.Y., Justin Tasch noted the '00 Champions Tour Boone Valley Classic was the only other tourney in which a "similar situation occurred.” Fans were not permitted entry “after the severe weather left the parking lots in shambles” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/1). The AP’s Doug Ferguson noted Woods on Saturday “had the largest crowd of the day, though it never topped 100 people.” Golfer Brendon de Jonge had “as many birdies (three) as people in his gallery.” Woods said, "I've played in front of people like this. But not generally for an 18-hole competitive round." Golfer Bo Van Pelt said, "I told Tiger that was a Bo Van Pelt crowd, so I was used to that. I was very comfortable with 10 or 15 people watching me play golf" (AP, 6/30). In DC, Kevin Dunleavy wrote Saturday was “a strange day full of humorous scenes.” As players teed off for the round, they were “introduced as usual, and many waved to the imaginary crowd.” After “holing out for a birdie at No. 4 Robert Garrigus, tipped his cap dramatically to the sound of silence.” Golfer Jim Furyk said, "There was only one guy following us. It's a lot more fun when the fans are out." As Furyk's group “finished up and walked off the green at No. 9, the lone fan clapped in appreciation.” Golfer Ricky Barnes joked, "Is that all you got?" (WASHINGTON EXAMINER, 7/1). GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel said the third round “was an eerie situation.” Sobel: “But a lot of the public and the media were making it out to be like, ‘Oh my goodness, these guys have never played in front of no one before.’ These guys play every day in front of nobody” ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 7/2).
LOOKING AHEAD: In West Virginia, Kathryn Gregory reported the Greenbrier Resort was “hit hard by Friday's storm, but owner Jim Justice said he won't let the damage stop the upcoming Greenbrier Classic,” which begins today. Although the resort and surrounding town did not lose power, Justice said that a “large number of spectator and skyboxes that had been set up for the Classic are ‘completely destroyed.’” Justice: “I've got a Chairmen's tent that looks like a bomb went off in it." He said some tall CBS camera locations that had been set up around the course were "torn to pieces." He added that the green on the 16th hole “is in bad shape … after a major sycamore tree fell.” Justice said that the spectators box on 16 “is also completely down.” More than 200 volunteers “have been working through the night to start cleaning the debris, but Justice said they could use more help” (CHARLESTON GAZETTE, 7/1).