The third round of the Tour Championship was suspended after six members of the public were injured in a lightning strike
Players are set for a marathon Sunday of golf at the Tour Championship after play was suspended during the third round following a lightning strike that injured six members of the public at East Lake Golf Club.
Play had been halted on Saturday after the final group had completed their fifth hole due to approaching storms in the area, but it did not resume for the rest of the day after two lightning strikes that occured 28 minutes later.
Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions, said one strike occured near the maintenance area and another hit a tree near the 16th hole. Debris from that strike injured six people.
The PGA Tour confirmed that five fans were transported from the grounds via ambulance to area hospitals for further medical attention. One other fan was treated and released on-site and did not require transportation to a hospital.
When asked what protocols were in place for evacuating the course when play is suspended, the PGA Tour said that scoreboards informed fans that inclement weather was approaching the course, and fans were asked to evacuate the course.
“Well, we suspend play, and we put on the scoreboards that weather is approaching and we want the people to take shelter and leave, but a lot of times they don’t,” said Mark Russell, the PGA TOUR’s Vice Presidents of Rules & Competition.
“We opened up hospitality areas that are grounded, a lot of other places like that. You’ve got a lot of people, and you have to do that quickly.”
Given the strong liklihood of thunderstorms, there were further questions about why tee times weren’t moved to the morning on Saturday to avoid suspension of play. The final group of the day teed off at 3.20pm ET.
“Forecasting the weather, the safety that goes along with it, that is critical to us,” said Tyler Dennis, the PGA TOUR’s Chief of Operations. “We have a lot of scenarios throughout the year where … there’s a very high degree of certainty that there will be storms coming. And there’s a lot of other days when we look at it and we see, as it was today — I believe it was a 50-60% percent chance of storms from 3:00 to 6:00 this afternoon — and we just have to evaluate it and make our best decision when we make the schedule.
“Obviously when it comes down to suspension of play … we don’t leave any room for error there. Safety is a huge priority for us.”
The organisation of the tee times was something Gary Woodland questioned.
“It’s frustrating that they didn’t move tee times up,” Gary Woodland said. “You saw the weather, you saw it was 80 percent (chance) at 4 o’clock. I’m sure with 30 players they thought they could get it in. But obviously now wish they would have moved them up. Now you just hope people are OK.”
The third round will continue at 8.00am ET (1pm BST), followed by the fourth round on Sunday afternoon.
Justin Thomas (-12) currently leads by one shot over Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.