ORLANDO, Fla. – Moments after Tiger Woods got the crowd rockin’ with a birdie on the par-3 second hole, play was suspended at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Fans understandably booed.
Officials called play for the day after a tornado watch went into effect for Orange County, bringing huge gusts of wind and torrential downpours. Winds were clocked at 86 mph at Orlando International Airport.
Play was halted at 2:03 p.m. EDT, with 43 players still on the course attempting to finish their final rounds. Play will resume at 10 a.m. Monday.
Considering Tiger Woods’ domination of this event, it seemed fitting that only Mother Nature could slow what seems inevitable. Woods opened a three-stroke lead over playing competitor Rickie Fowler – who looked like a Dreamsicle after subbing his customary orange shirt for white – Keegan Bradley, Ken Duke and John Huh.
“We got in two holes, and hopefully the course will be drained, and we can get after it tomorrow,” said Woods, who with a victory Monday would tie the late Sam Snead for most tournament titles at one event, with eight.
It’s tough to bet against Woods when he has the lead, considering he has won his last five events when leading after three rounds. He has won 51 of 55 events in his career when holding the third-round lead.
Mark Russell, vice president of rules and competition for the PGA Tour, said there was talk of starting Sunday’s play earlier with split tees. But a tape-delayed finish wasn’t ideal for their television partners, and he’s not looking back.
“We live in the present moment here,” Russell said. “We talked about that yesterday. We had a 50-50 chance, and we decided to try. . . . The weather got us.”
The maintenance crew here will be working long hours to try and clear the debris, particularly in the bunkers. Officials say 1.4 inches of rain fell Sunday, though that number seems on the low side to those who trounced through the rivers in the parking lots. Standing water on the course is the main area of concern.
Members of the press were rushed out of the media tent after the first microburst left everyone and everything shaking. The power went out in the clubhouse, where most were huddled, and rules officials had to rely on weather information from the Champions Tour after their Doppler radar went down.
Overnight winds should help dry the course for the final round. All parking Monday will be moved to nearby Universal Studios.