ST. LOUIS (AP) — When the fans came out to watch Tiger Woods, there was no tournament. Arnold Palmer once played in a tournament, but fans couldn’t get to the golf course.
St. Louis added yet another chapter to its dreary decade of golf history when the first round of the BMW Championship was washed out by storms that dumped 3 inches of rain on Bellerive Country Club.
“We do know how to deal with adversity,” said Jerry Ritter, the general chairman of the BMW Championship and a Bellerive member who has seen his share of it.
Dozens of players were at Bellerive getting ready for the American Express Championship the morning of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It was the first big event in St. Louis since the 1992 PGA Championship. Woods was playing in St. Louis for the first time in his career, but he only got in a practice round before the event was canceled.
Three years later, the U.S. Senior Open came to town, and rain washed out the second round Friday. At least they got in the tournament, with Peter Jacobsen going 36 holes on a creaky hip Sunday to win.
Palmer made his only appearance in the Boone Valley Classic on the Senior PGA Tour in 2000, and the King can draw a big gallery anywhere. But storms that week caused such a problem with traffic that fans couldn’t get to Boone Valley.
The silver lining? Palmer returned four years later for the Senior Open, and with the cut pushed back to Saturday because of the rain, they at least saw him on the weekend.
And it’s not like the BMW Championship, the third stop in the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup, is a complete wash. The first round was postponed until Friday, with 36 holes on Saturday to get back on schedule.
The rain relented Thursday afternoon, giving tournament crews about 18 hours to get the course ready. It helps that Bellerive recently installed a new drainage system, which couldn’t stop the downpour.
“It’s under water,” said Slugger White, vice president of rules and competition for the PGA Tour. “It’s as bad as I’ve seen in a long time.”
Creeks winding through the golf course transformed into lakes. Players would have needed boats to get across some of the bridges. Some landing areas in the fairways were water hazards.
“It was so bad the ducks took the day off,” White said.
The first round originally was delayed for two hours with hopes the storms would pass quickly. Hunter Mahan arrived a few hours before his scheduled tee time, but he knew what to expect when he awoke and called caddie John Wood.
“I said, ‘Is it raining?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s pouring,”‘ Mahan said. “I saw on television that creeks were flooded over and you needed a cart to get to some of the holes. There’s just too much water. To hold an event like this, it should be in the best shape possible.”
Still to be determined is how White and his staff will set up the golf course.
Already a long course, the soggy fairways will make it play to its full length. White said some tees might need to be moved forward if previous landing areas are too much like a swamp.
He did not want to play 36 holes on Friday to keep traffic – and subsequent damage – limited while the golf course was trying to dry out. Plus, the fans in St. Louis now get a full day of golf on Saturday.
The third round was to end at 2:30 p.m. Saturday because of NBC Sports’ contract with Notre Dame football.
“Now, we can give the fans and the community an extra five hours to watch golf,” White said.
The BMW Championship is the third event in the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup, with Vijay Singh holding such a large lead that he could wrap up the title before the season-ending Tour Championship.
Singh won the first two events at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship.
Ritter said the tournament would honor Thursday tickets on the weekend, where the gallery was expected to top 35,000 people. He said ticket sales had been slightly short of a sellout, but that was due to another dose of bad news that St. Louis can’t seem to escape.
Just as excitement was starting to build this summer, Woods announced he was having season-ending knee surgery.