HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — The final round of the Verizon Heritage was suspended until Monday after Harbour Town was hit by winds so strong that a tournament marshal was hit by a falling tree limb.
Tournament officials announced the decision shortly before 4 p.m. Final-round play was expected to resume at 7:45 a.m. on Monday. It will be the tournament’s first Monday finish since Jose Coceres defeated Billy Mayfair in a playoff in 2001.
William Millon was hit by the branch between the first and ninth holes. He was talkative, conscious and alert, Verizon Heritage spokesman Arena Burdick said. Millon was taken to Hilton Head Regional Medical Center.
Soon after, the final round was halted because balls would not remain in place on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, which are exposed to Calibogue Sound.
“It got dangerous out there for spectators,” PGA Tour tournament director Slugger White said. “It was dangerous and unplayable.”
At 12:30 p.m., the flagsticks on those holes were bent in an arc as the wind whistled through the largely empty grandstands. Sand from the beach area along the lighthouse hole, No. 18, blew onto the fairway.
“We’ve never had anything like” these winds, said Cory Corbitt, director of sports and retail operations for Sea Pines Resort.
A swaying tree snagged the netting of Harbour Town’s driving range and pulled part of it away.
Another long pine tree limb was split by the wind and hanging in the same area where Millon was struck. Tournament officials rolled in a backhoe to pull down the branch as they directed spectators onto the ninth fairway on their way to Harbour Town’s entrance.
Leader Jerry Kelly and playing partners Ernie Els and Kevin Na had just hit their approach shots into the first green when PGA Tour officials sent them back to the clubhouse.
An overnight storm brought tornado warnings, thunderstorms and the strong winds, which were forecast to gust up to 45 mph later Sunday. Winds were expected to blow at 20-30 mph Monday.
Players and caddies milled around the putting green – they were not permitted to practice – waiting for things to calm.
“It’s a good day to watch the (NASCAR) race” at Texas Motor Speedway, said five-time Verizon Heritage champ Davis Love III.