Top 25 golf stories of 2013, No. 22: Snow! Lightning! Fog! Wind! Floods!

Stuart Franklin

Any discussion of the year in golf must include the wild weather conditions that affected play on almost a weekly basis.

Talking about the weather is rarely exciting and a sure and default sign that you're searching for things to discuss in a conversation you probably don't want to have. But the weather on the PGA Tour this year warranted real, legitimate and almost always interesting discussion. The near weekly weather events and delays were a constant topic, and the extreme conditions and frequency were enough to make it one of the top 25 stories from this season.

No. 22: Wind! Snow! Fog! Frost! Rain! Lightning! Floods!

The Amazing, Insane 1st Quarter

It started right out of the gate at the first tournament of the year, an enclave known for gray skies and stormy weather -- Maui? It wasn't your average thunderstorms and rain that affected the start of the year in Hawaii.

The season's opening event at Kaplua was, inarguably, a logistical disaster due to unrelenting high winds that hit the mountainside layout. The PGA Tour sets the Hyundai Tournament of Champions for a Monday finish, to avoid going head-to-head with football and trying to capture a primetime audience during the week. But in 2013, the tournament didn't even start until Monday because of the unplayable windy conditions.

The Tour even took the drastic step of wiping out holes that had already been completed by some of the field, opting to reset everything under equal conditions after multiple false starts. It was a nightmare and the tournament was eventually shortened to a two-day, 54-hole event with a Tuesday finish. They were lucky to get that many holes in to make it official.

The madness at Kapalua set the tone for what would be a ridiculous opening quarter to the season with wind, fog, frost, and snow early causes for delay. While Kapalua was originally scheduled for a weekday ending (albeit not on a random Tuesday), we had our first "Monday finish" of the year at Torrey Pines less than a month later.

The PGA Tour and its media partners usually dread a Monday finish, with the audience and fans back at work, and this one was a particularly tough blow because Tiger Woods started the final round as the inevitable winner. Torrey Pines is a staple on the Tour schedule, and one of the best courses America has to offer with views of the Pacific and hangliders floating above the cliffs. But the marine layer turned to unplayable fog over the weekend, creating lengthy delays and pushing everything back to Monday.

(via Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Woods got in a couple holes on Sunday, but played the majority of his final round Monday afternoon in San Diego while the east coast audience was stuck in rush hour.

If there are weather issues during the west coast swing, it's usually just your average rain storm (almost always at Pebble Beach). But the two stops in Arizona were beset by frost, and then an all-out blizzard. The start of the Phoenix Open was put on a frost delay, and then a few weeks later, the WGC Match Play event was wiped out due to multiple snow storms in the Tucson area. The temperatures had dipped enough that officials expected some freezing precipitation, but nothing like the full-day blizzard that would blanket the course:

And it continued to snow overnight, with the course taking a beating beyond what Tour officials and the grounds crew could have imagined. The evening and overnight beating resulted in a next-day delay as we waited for the Arizona sun to melt away the accumulation.

The event at Dove Mountain battled Kapalua for craziest weather delays of the year, but thanks to the small 64-man field, the schedule eventually resumed in time for Matt Kuchar, in his hat and gloves, to knock off Hunter Mahan on Sunday afternoon.

After the early-season wind, frost, fog, and snow out west, the Tour then settled in for a year of lightning storms and deluge rains. There had been seven events significantly delayed or affected by weather by the final round of the Shell Houston Open, which concluded the first quarter at the end of March.

The second Monday finish of the year, coincidentally, came during another Tiger runaway. This time it was at another favorite track of his, Bay Hill for the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Sunday storm at the API was probably the worst thunderstorm of the season, as TV towers were blown down and an amazing amount of rain was dumped in one short blast:

via PGATour

There was so much rain accumulating that AP writer Doug Ferguson even found a fish in the fairway, adding to the bizarre scenes of the first quarter golf season:

The Tour was ripped by Ian Poulter and others for not moving tee times up when they knew the storm was coming, forcing most of the field to come back Monday for just a handful of holes. It perhaps influenced a series of later decisions to move tee times way up at multiple subsequent tournaments.

After the first quarter, the weather events were the much more common thunderstorm delay, but occurring on almost a unseen weekly basis.

Major Headaches

It's okay if we have to settle for a Monday finish at one of the regular annual Tour stops, but when weather starts messing with the majors, a sense of dread overwhelms fans (and the networks).

Keeping with the weekly theme of the season up to that point, the Masters played much of Sunday's final round under gray skies and persistent rains. It was not the typical landscape scene we're used to viewing on Masters Sunday, but thankfully, Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera redeemed it all in a misty final hour at Augusta National.

The U.S. Open wasn't as lucky, trading the Sunday mist and drizzle for a week of downpours heading into the national championship at Merion. The U.S. Open is a massive logistical undertaking, with threesomes going off split tees from dawn to dusk, and the slightest delay capable of throwing everything off. And it didn't take long for the rain to affect the opening round, with threats of a Derecho hitting early on Thursday. It was a dangerous scene less than two hours into the tournament in Philly.

Godhatesgolf_medium

The three-plus hour delay right off the bat, and then another Thursday rain delay, forced the USGA to play three days of catchup. The cut was not made until Saturday mid-morning, and groups continued to play in threesomes until Sunday's final round. The Merion maintenance staff also spent the entire week just trying to drain the several inches of rain the course had taken on from Tropical Storm Andrea during the week leading up to the tournament. The topic of lift, clean, and place on the soaked Philly track was quickly dismissed by the USGA, which probably would prefer to cancel a tournament altogether before taking that step. The added rains on the first day led to this mesmerizing photo:

(via Eileen Blass-USA TODAY)

There were even legitimate fears of flooding at Merion's 11th green, but the rising waters never crested over the wall abutting Cobbs Creek. Amazingly, the tournament did get back on track for a Sunday night finish, but only after three grueling on-and-off days at a soggy and torn-up course.

The British Open had the opposite issue of Merion, as the uncharacteristic sun and characteristic wind baked out Muirfield's greens to what many players felt were unplayable conditions during the opening round. Phil Mickelson ripped the R&A for their pin placements on the concrete greens for Round 1, and things slowed down a bit over the next three rounds, which were, thankfully, uninhibited by weather delay.

Finally, at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August, the pros went through one more major weather stoppage during opening round play. The Rochester setup took on a ton of water because of some heavy storms and then persistent rains during the first couple rounds, but the PGA of America was able to keep everything on schedule for a Sunday night finish. But much like Merion, the rain and potentially soggy course conditions early in the week were a constant concern.

A soaked FedExCup and Presidents Cup

If you thought things would dry out and settle down as the summer wound down, you were wrong. All four FedExCup events were either delayed by storms or had tee times rescheduled because of the threat of storms. By the time we got to The Barclays, 19 of 36 PGA Tour events had been delayed (and others had rearranged tee times to avoid weather), including staple events such as:

Shell Houston Open -- lengthy final round delay because of severe storms
RBC Heritage at Harbour Town -- rainstorms push the second round and cut to Saturday
Zurich Classic in New Orleans -- two major rain delays during the final round, including a lightning delay with eventual winner Billy Horschel just two holes out as darkness approached
Wells Fargo Championship -- a drenched Quail Hollow with disastrous greens had a final round pushed up several hours and played under pelting rain
The Players at TPC Sawgrass -- wild Saturday lightning show forces Tiger and Sergio to finish up together at dawn on Sunday
DFW two-step -- HP Byron Nelson takes on severe storms, tornado warnings hours before event opens, while a week later Colonial deals with multiple lightning and rain delays that force AM restarts
The Memorial -- typical Columbus storms shut down the second round and cut cannot be made until the weekend
AT&T National -- more bad weather in DC, and cut is not made until the weekend
Greenbrier Classic -- Jonas Blixt wins in the dark after sitting through multiple lengthy Sunday delays
RBC Canadian Open -- on a positive note, an 80-minute rain delay ensures Hunter Mahan gets news his wife has gone into labor before he gets on the course as the 36-hole leader
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational -- weekend tee times forced to change to dodge the usual August Akron thunderstorms
Wyndham Championship -- Greensboro rains result in multiple delays on multiple days

With that summer of discontent, the Barclays opened the PGA Tour's postseason unable to complete the opening round by darkness in New Jersey, and spent a couple days catching up to get on schedule.

The Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, which is always scheduled to end on Labor Day, almost featured the season's second Tuesday finish. Rain hammered the TPC Boston course for several days, resulting in stilted broadcast times and deflated galleries. It seemed the entire weekend and final round was played under unyielding dreary skies and pelting rain, but they somehow finished by Monday night after hours of delays.

The BMW Championship, however, was not as lucky and ended up hosting the fourth and final delayed finish of the season. Sunday's final round in the Chicago was almost completely washed out, with the leaders never even getting to the first tee. The cold, damp, and windy conditions pushed Zach Johnson's clinching 18-holes to Monday, in front of a depleted crowd and a reduced TV audience. Compared to the first three legs of the postseason, the TOUR Championship escaped relatively unscathed in Atlanta, although Saturday's round was pushed up to start before most of the country was awake and finished before most of the day's college football games had kicked off.

Mother Nature also did not let the PGA Tour off the hook for its 2013 finale event, the Presidents Cup. Muirfield Village is responsible for hosting the notoriously weather-plagued Memorial tournament, but it was supposed to be different and drier in October for this international team competition put on by the Tour. Instead, we got four pretty solid days of rain, stops and starts, lift, clean, and place, and generally weary golfers and fans. These team match play events are usually all-day affairs, but the Presidents Cup builds in an extra day for some cushion. The constant Columbus storms, however, threw everything off and led to a drenched Muirfield:

Wetball_medium

All the weather delays ended up with a completely anti-climactic tape-delayed Sunday singles session. We followed along in realtime on Twitter, and then watched it all (or moved on to football) a couple hours later on NBC. It was another solid event marred by Mother Nature.

Even with the weekly interruptions on the PGA Tour, the LPGA probably dealt with the most extreme weather-related situation of the year. The inaugural Bahamas Classic was nearly canceled after the Ocean Club Golf Course was flooded. Making it up and adjusting on the fly, the LPGA went ahead and used 12 holes on the course for a three-day, 36 hole event.

(via Sam Greenwood)

I started this with the quip that it's almost never interesting to talk about the weather with someone, and then proceeded to use up an absurd amount of words recounting all the ways in which the topic dominated the entire 2013 season. But it was such a wild, inconsistent, bizarre year that PGA Tour officials should be commended for keeping their sanity by the time it was all over.

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Could PGA Championship head abroad to Royal Portrush?

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