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That Was An LPGA SMOG Delay On Saturday

Like many, I was engrossed in watching the Presidents Cup and didn't pay much attention to the LPGA's Reignwood Classic in Beijing, China, where a 90-minute fog delay, followed by a series of poor fan behavior antics, led to Stacy Lewis bickering with Twitter followers and deleting her account. (Beth Ann Baldry laments Lewis' depature and writes about the issues with fan etiquette in Asia.)

It seems one of Lewis' gripes had to do with the air quality, which the LPGA's media staff--hoping to clear customs without visiting a windowless room--said "foggy conditions" delayed play.

Unfortunately, it was smog, explains Bloomberg's Adam Minter.

On Saturday, the LPGA delayed third-round tee-times for 90 minutes, but then allowed the tournament to go on -- despite the fact that the U.S. embassy air-quality readings remained at “hazardous” levels for much of the day. These dangerous air-pollution levels persisted into the night and led the U.S. embassy to issue an emergency alert for American citizens early Sunday morning. It read, in part:

“The Embassy would like to notify you that the Beijing Embassy air monitor Air Quality Index (AQI) readings have averaged over 300 in the 24-hour period beginning at 8:00 pm on October 4, and were over 400 overnight.

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations, AQI levels above 301 are considered hazardous. The EPA recommends that, at AQI levels above 301, everyone should avoid all physical activities outdoors.”

Minter notes the LPGA website's misleading headline:

“REIGNWOOD LPGA CLASSIC FINAL ROUND DELAYED FOR HEAVY FOG,” it read. “Due to low visibility, the start of the final round has been delayed by 90 minutes to 9:55.”

Fog -- real fog -- has delayed LPGA events in the past (as recently as in June at the U.S. Women’s Open in Southampton, New York), and thus it’s entirely possible that the LPGA was making a sincere effort to deal with low visibility, rather than the negative health effects of the air. Yet the fact that the LPGA resorted to using the state-owned Chinese news media’s long-time favorite means of downplaying the dangers of smog -- simply label it “fog” -- suggests the association may have known the scope of the problem and decided to minimize it.

A third round notes piece still refers to the "fog."

Getty Images includes a few shots of the players wearing protective masks during play and while I know some of you will find this to be a sad state of affairs, think of the branding opportunities! Logos on the masks? Uh-huh!

As you may recall, all of golf's major organizations have been eager to do business in China despite the nation's human rights and environmental track records.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has pushed especialy hard for the PGA Tour to expand into China, even speculating that it might be the site of a future Presidents Cup in 2019.

The PGA Tour makes its first ever official stop in Shanghai October 28-November 3rd at the WGC HSBC Champions, which previously has not been played for official money.

Get your branded masks ready!

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Reader Comments (15)

The Presidents Cup should only be held in countries where you can elect a president or prime minister. China doesn't qualify at the moment.
10.7.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGolden Bell
@ Golden Bell. Or even in a country where there is a working government.
10.7.2013 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
Eastern China is the worst time zone for televised sports. Any good courses in western Canada?
10.7.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEast Coast Dave
Air quality can be so bad around beijing that it will effect the telecast, which is where a lot of the Tour's money comes from. I cannot imagine the networks will be terribly supportive of beijing events. Shanghai, while generally better has its very bad days as well. Hard to broadcast golf when you cannot see the ball in the air 50 meters away.
As for the fans, it's going to take time.
10.7.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKG
@Golden Bell
It's good to elect a leader, but what is the point when he is not allowed to govern by a few with an axe to grind ?
10.7.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
@EastCoastDave: W Canada has LOTS of strong and suitable PC courses. Unfortunately, if they play the event in the fall, there's a better than half chance the weather they could get would make what happened this week at MV feel like balmy Palm Springs.

Question: How does one factor in fog density into one's shot yardage. Is it like playing at high vs low altitude or more like playing in super heavy air like can happen during mornings in the spring and autumn?
10.7.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
I remember playing in fog, johnny, it was playing about a club longer for the day. Maybe 2 clubs.
10.8.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
I too have played in fog @Easing, try teeing it up in Vancouver or Victoria on a cool spring morning. 150yd 7irons were about the norm. But I have never played in "hazardous levels of particulate matter in the air" type conditions.

I'm not a greenskeeper by any means but the ground acidity levels over in China must be pretty high with all the smog. Do they spray some alkaline infused stuff all over the playing field(s)?
10.8.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Not sure there johnny.

I do remember being in LA in the '60's and '70's up in the mountains. You could see the blanket of smog, but not on China's scale I imagine. Don't blame them for wearing masks.
10.8.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
If the tours are still interested in expanding into China after this, the south coast would be far better for escaping pollution. A suggestion - Hong Kong SAR. The city itself is very prone to smog but some of its outlying areas - with nice golf courses - are away from Victoria Harbour and the polluting industries. Hong Kong SAR also - for the time being - has fewer political / human rights issues if politics are a concern.
10.8.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjsmith32
@Johnny and Easy. The smog doesn't make for much, if any change in club selection. It's different to fog in that the ball still goes through it. It's not much fun though and in my part of the world (Singapore) when it happens, most outdoor activities are shut down - including golf. Fortunately for us, it's only one or two weeks a year when the Indonesians start burning anything that moves.
10.8.2013 | Unregistered Commentermetro18
@ Metro
Yes, I remember those fires and what you had to go through. Not good at all.
Yes, for is water vapour and will slow down a ball in flight...smog, well, it's a killer.
10.8.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEasingwold
Hong Kong will not impact the mainland market. It's kinda like two different countries....but it isn't. Certainly most HK people are ethnically Chinese but rarely/never will they say they are from China. mainlanders are Chinese but need a special travel visa to go to Hong Kong. Strange? yes. The EPGA Tour already has the HK Open, held at Fanling. Great old course but that presence will not impact mainland China. I doubt its even broadcast on Chinese TV unless you have the golf channel in china, most do not.
You are correct southern china generally has better air quality but the tours want the impact of shanghai and beijing. Fujian has great weather and a couple of good courses but little chance of getting an event.
10.8.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKG
KG - all points understood.

Shanghai (although not immune) would certainly be less prone to smog than Beijing. Perhaps Xiamen or Zhuhai would be worth considering, too, although I'm not aware of any golf courses in those areas.
10.9.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjsmith32
Sandra Gal in a mask. way to make me cry...
10.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGS Elevator

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