The unconventional 2013 PGA Tour season will continue with another Monday finish -- this time at Bay Hill, as the Arnold Palmer Invitational will wrap up its final round after nasty storms washed away play on Sunday. It will be a day late but the result may be the most familiar of Bay Hill scenes, as Tiger Woods is in line for his eighth career win at this event, matching Sam Snead for the record at a single tournament.
Shortly after 2 p.m. ET on Sunday in Orlando, severe winds and heavy rain hit Bay Hill (video), rendering the course unplayable with significant water in the fairways and several TV towers blown down. The sun did eventually peak through the clouds around 4 p.m. ET, but at that point, the cleanup effort, which included restoring bunkers that had largely been washed away, could not be finished in time to have the players complete any significant portion of the last round.
Tiger managed to play only two holes on Sunday, but still extended his lead in just 20 minutes out on the course. Woods fired a dart into the par-3 second green, draining his birdie putt to move to 12-under. His playing partner, Rickie Fowler, put his tee shot inside of Woods, but badly missed his putt and Tiger walked off the green with a three-shot lead over Fowler and Keegan Bradley. That's when the horn sounded and all the players, as well as the spectators, were hurried off the course with lightning moving in and tornado warnings in the area.
PGA Tour official Mark Russell, who's been earning his paycheck this year with odd weather circumstances both in Hawaii and throughout the West Coast Swing, made the decision to push things to Monday and restart it at 10 a.m ET. Russell and the Tour were criticized by some writers and players for not sending groups off split tees early in the morning in order to finish up on Sunday before the forecasted storm hit. Ian Poulter, who along with Woods was scheduled to play in Monday's Tavistock Cup -- that annual celebration of Orlando high society -- was one of the players who criticized the Tour's decision to keep the afternoon schedule:
So disappointing we didn't play 2 tee start from 8-10 we would all have finished before the storm hit.— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) March 24, 2013
But that drama has passed, and the Tavistock Cup will have to take a backseat to what will likely be Tiger's second Monday victory. He cleaned up on a Monday at Torrey Pines earlier this season, finishing his final round with a comfortable multi-shot cushion to debut with a win. Now he's going for his third victory in five Tour appearances this season. The win would send him to the top of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time since October 2010 and further amplify the hype for The Masters in just over two weeks.
At Torrey, the PGA Tour honored the request of CBS to schedule a Monday afternoon finish and did not restart until the mid-afternoon in the eastern United States. Golf Channel and NBC have made no such request this week, and Tiger will hit the third tee right at 10 a.m., with a likely finish around 2 p.m. ET.
Golf Channel will carry the coverage right from the start at 10 a.m. and broadcast until completion of the final round. The forecast is clear for Monday so there should be no further weather delays.
While Tiger and Fowler still have 16 holes to go, there are 42 other players also ahead of them who have to finish out the fourth round. With everyone out on the course, there are no tee times -- just the 10 a.m. restart. But here's where the remaining pairings stand, and where they are on the course:
|Thru (at Restart)||Player||Score||Player||Score|
|17||Howell III, Charles||1||Jones, Matt||2|
|16||Kirk, Chris||-3||Goosen, Retief||-2|
|15||Crane, Ben||5||Lee, Richard H.||4|
|15||Taylor, Vaughn||-1||Pettersson, Carl||E|
|14||Streelman, Kevin||-1||Villegas, Camilo||-3|
|13||Laird, Martin||1||Johnson, Zach||E|
|13||Singh, Vijay||-1||Henry, J.J.||-1|
|11||Compton, Erik||-2||Horschel, Billy||5|
|10||O'Hair, Sean||-1||Brown, Scott||-3|
|10||Senden, John||-4||Guthrie, Luke||1|
|9||Tringale, Cameron||-3||Day, Jason||E|
|8||Curtis, Ben||-5||Every, Matt||-3|
|7||Rollins, John||-6||Kohles, Ben||-5|
|6||Poulter, Ian||-2||Mahan, Hunter||-6|
|5||Fritsch, Brad||-3||Stenson, Henrik||-6|
|5||Wilson, Mark||-8||Stuard, Brian||-8|
|4||Haas, Bill||-6||Bradley, Keegan||-9|
|4||Walker, Jimmy||-7||Duke, Ken||-9|
|3||Olesen, Thorbjorn||-8||Fdez-Castano, Gonzalo||-8|
|2||Huh, John||-9||Rose, Justin||-8|
|2||Woods, Tiger||-12||Fowler, Rickie||-9|
Monday finishes are never an ideal scenario for the Tour, fans, sponsors, and the TV networks. But with Tiger closing in on the No. 1 ranking in the world in his final appearance before The Masters, it won't be just another Monday afternoon under the radar at Bay Hill.