Tiger Woods’ bid to regain the world No. 1 ranking had to wait a day after violent thunderstorms hit the Bay Hill Club, halting the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday.
After assessing damage by the powerful storm, the PGA Tour announced the final round would resume yesterday morning.
“We just got so much rain and wind, we’ve got some bunker problems, we’ve got a lot of standing water. That is the main thing,” Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, told reporters. “It just got to the point where we weren’t going to be able to get the golf course ready.”
Woods had rolled in an 11-foot birdie putt on the second hole to open up a three-shot cushion when warning horns were sounded to evacuate the course, sending spectators and players running for cover.
Heavy rains and strong winds soon followed, ripping branches from trees, cutting off power and turning Bay Hill into one massive water hazard.
“We didn’t get in much,” Woods said. “We got in two holes, and hopefully the course will be drained and we can get after it tomorrow.”
The 14-time major winner can reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy with a victory at Bay Hill, where he has won seven times previously.
“At least we got a little activity in today, so we’re not completely stagnant,” Woods said. “We’ve dealt with this before.”
Before the storm hit, Sergio Garcia provided an amazing highlight when he climbed into an oak tree and played a shot back out to the fairway.
“First, I went up there to identify the ball and then saw that I could make the shot with just one hand,” Garcia said on his Web site. “Luckily, it went well.”
The rest of the day did not.
Garcia withdrew from the tournament, saying in a statement that his left shoulder and Achilles tendon were hurt, and he did not want to risk doing more damage by finishing six holes yesterday.
During the shot, he leaned hard on his left shoulder and tried to balance himself on one foot. Eventually, he wrapped his left arm around a limb to swat at the shot back-handed.
The statement said that when Garcia was in the tree, he forced the left shoulder to the point where he could barely feel it and his next shot — a chunked wedge that only went about 30 yards — was a result of his sore left shoulder.
The Spaniard was playing with William McGirt, who was having a hard time believing what he was seeing.
“I knew they were looking around the tree,” McGirt said. “I didn’t know they were looking in the tree. I looked over and Sergio is up in the air, and I’m trying to figure out what in the hell he’s going to go. He called for a club, he’s hugging the tree, and the ball comes flying out. Are you kidding me?”
Garcia was so high up in the tree that he had to stoop to grab the head of the club as his caddie reached high holding the end of the club. Garcia studied his options, before playing a one-handed, back-handed shot out to the fairway.
“It was just unbelievable,” McGirt said, who stood in the fairway with arms crossed watching it all unfold.
Garcia wound up making double-bogey. Two holes later, the horn sounded to suspend play with Garcia five-over for his round and three-over for the tournament.
McGirt said when they climbed into a van to be taken back to the clubhouse, Garcia handed him the scorecard and said: “I’m out of here.”
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