HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - The final round of the Verizon Heritage was suspended until today after Harbour Town was hit by wind 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. today. It will be the tournament's first Monday finish since Jose Coceres beat 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 when he left for Hilton Head Regional Medical Center in an ambulance, tournament spokesman Arnie Burdick said. Millon was later released with minor injuries, Verizon Heritage tournament director Steve Wilmot said.
Soon after, the final round was halted because balls wouldn't remain in place on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, which are exposed to Calibogue Sound.
PGA Tour tournament director Slugger White said the course was hit by gusts as high as 44 mph. Wind off the famous lighthouse hole, No. 18, was enough to knock walkers off their strides.
"It got dangerous out there for spectators," White said. "It was dangerous and unplayable."
Officials realized shortly after the first groups got to the finishing hole that it would be near impossible to continue. White said Justin Leonard's shot on the 16th rolled off after it had seemingly come to rest. That's when they put a halt to the round.
Mark Hensby was among the few golfers who played the par-4 16th.
"We were walking along 16, and the tree branches, you actually heard one crack," Hensby said. "Then a few were flying across the fairway, and then we figured someone was going to get hurt out there."
The conditions would've been brutal on players' scores, too. J.B. Holmes hit the green on the par-3 17th - a hole moved up some 70 yards to play at 138 - then needed three putts to finish.
Boo Weekley, who is two shots behind leader Jerry Kelly, was playing the second hole when the round was halted.
"I heard some stories in the locker room, and it was pretty ridiculous, really," Weekley said.
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 blew onto the fairway.
"We've never had anything like" this wind, 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.
White said workers will try and blow some of the lost sand back in bunkers over the final three holes. They also might add sand before this morning.
Kelly and playing partners Ernie Els and Kevin Na, both a stroke off the lead, had just hit their approach shots into the first green when tour officials sent them back to the clubhouse.
Kelly expected to bring a similar mind-set into this morning as he tries for his first PGA Tour victory in five years.
"I think I'll be able to get the adrenaline back up tomorrow morning, no problem," he said. "And off to the races."
An overnight storm brought the region tornado warnings, thunderstorms and the strong wind, which was forecast to gust up to 45 mph later Sunday. Wind was expected to blow at 20 to 30 mph today.
Players and caddies milled around the putting green - they were not permitted to practice - waiting for things to calm.
Past Verizon Heritage champion Peter Lonard and fellow Australian pro Mathew Goggin got a makeshift cricket match going on the practice green by the 10th tee. Hensby, another Australian, did not take part. "Cricket is boring," he said."It's a good day to watch the (NASCAR) race" at Texas Motor Speedway, five-time Verizon Heritage winner Davis Love III said.
Weekley didn't think the delay would affect his game. He also didn't expect to switch any clubs to deal with additional wind. "Not unless it's a bazooka and it shoots it straight," he said.comments powered by Disqus