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!