Planet Golf — 30 June 2012 by Bob Sherwin
‘Derecho’ spews chaos at AT&T event

BETHESDA, Md. – What if you hold a golf tournament and no one shows up?

That is what’s happening today at The AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club. No fans. No volunteers. Limited TV coverage. In other words, chaos.

An intense storm blew through the Washington D.C. area Friday causing power outages and fallen trees. PGA Tour officials have been forced to push back tee times and condense play into threesomes.

The field will play Round 3 without fans. Officials closed the tournament to spectators because of the debris. How’s that going to look on TV?

Actually, we won’t see it as much as expected. Play will begin at 11 a.m. PT off the first and 10th tees, with the leaders teeing off at 3:10 p.m. to give maintenance crews time to clean up the damage.

The Golf Channel will have coverage just from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CBS will carry the event from noon to 3 p.m. There will be no coverage past 3 p.m. Golf Channel is not available due to scheduled LPGA coverage and CBS will go to regularly scheduled programming.

It might be worth it just to watch a tournament where no one is there to clap or yell, ‘Get in the hole.’

“It’s just too dangerous out here. There are a lot of hanging limbs and a lot of debris. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Mark Russell, the Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions. “That’s a drastic decision not to let fans out, but it’s in their best interest.”

Second-round leader Hunter Mahan will play with Brendon de Jonge and Jimmy Walker, while tournament host Tiger Woods is scheduled to play at 11:40 a.m. with Bo Van Pelt and Cameron Tringale.

According to Stewart Williams, the Tour’s meteorologist, the storm, which began on Friday near Chicago, produced “derecho” winds that gusted to 70 mph around Congressional and had the potential to do tornado-like damage. It’s not quite a tornado but it still packs a punch.

The storm arrived at about 10:30 p.m. local time and lasted just 45 minutes and produced 3/10ths of an inch of rain but the damage to Congressional and the surrounding area was substantial with more than 40 fallen trees at the course. Much of the area, including Congressional’s clubhouse, remained without power.

Derecho is a Spanish term that means “straight.” In weather terms, it’s a storm that goes at least 250 miles with winds at least 58 miles per hour or greater. It’s a storm that developed in the Chicago area, gained momentum. By the time it got to Columbus, Ohio late yesterday afternoon, it had winds of 60-80 mph with gusts up to 100 mph. By the time it got here, we still had winds of 70 mph when it went through here about 10:15 p.m. ET. It lasted about 30 minutes. From there, it went east and southeast until it went into the Atlantic Ocean.

How common is a Derecho?

They can happen at any time of the year, but they are most common in July and August timeframe, summer. It was extremely hot yesterday across the eastern two-thirds of the country, in the hundreds. It had a lot of energy to work with and that’s how these things typically form.

Russell said the Tour plans to evaluate whether it would be safe to allow fans to attend Sunday’s final round and he still had not determined if any “local rules” would be used on Saturday.


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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 53rd year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 19 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for Cascade Golfer Magazine and Destination Golfer. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the 'Super Senior'' (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle.

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