There was a new first at the WGC Dell Match Play Championship: emergency vehicles with sirens blaring unable to access the clubhouse area. Let's hope no lives were irreversibly damaged in the making of the traffic nightmare that was day one at Austin Country Club.
There is so much to love about the tour making a huge effort to sign up a strong sponsor in Dell and to visit Austin. Todd Lewis and I discussed many of those elements on Golf Central today.
To recap: there is ACC's risk-reward course and dramatic setting that is going to make previous match play venues look even worse than they were. There is the charm of bringing in a major American market (and a city quickly becoming one of the world's most important), finally getting a taste of a big time sporting event.
Even better, the match play already had more energy on day one than it's seen any day when played at previous venues. On Friday with the Spieth-Thomas match late and the forecast good, it should be downright sizzling!
But the tournament operators, PGA Tour's Championship Management, adore saving a few bucks for their sponsor by not allowing the public on grounds for practice rounds. As longtime readers know, I feel this deprives aspiring players and dreamers the chance for more informal encounters with their golfing heroes.
It also deprives shuttle drivers, volunteers, security, planners and other important operational folks a chance for a casual dry run-through. A practice round, if you will.
The result of Wednesday's mini-fiasco that saw gridlock and ESPN.com's Michael Collins reporting that two players abandoned their courtesy cars to get on site: ACC members will have to take a shuttle onto the property instead of getting to valet park in the clubhouse lot.
How they were ever allowed to clog up the lone entryway onto the property and take up hard-to-come-by spaces is beyond comprehension.
The press release issued announcing and, uh, update:
Tournament officials at the Dell Match Play today announced an update to the parking, valet and shuttle services for the remainder of this week's event. The Dell Match Play will work to give fans, players, caddies, sponsors and all parties a first-rate experience while attending this week's event. Today's parking and shuttle services were not up to the standard that the tournament strives for.
In order to maintain the best experience for everyone involved, ticket holders with member valet passes will be required to park off property at Austin Country Club to the Saint Stephen's Academy at 6500 St Stephen's Dr, Austin, TX 78746, and shuttled on and off property.
"While the fan experience is certainly a key reason for instituting this new policy," said Tournament Director Jordan Uppleger. "Local agencies have expressed the need for traffic at the club in order to maintain a safe environment.
Translation: the fire marshal probably got really, really mad!
The new policy will allow for much safer conditions. We knew coming into the week that it would be a learning experience from an operational and logistical standpoint. We apologize for the difficult circumstances today and hope that fans who had a less than stellar experience will be patient as we work through the process of bringing fans on and off-site. We have high standards in how we want fans to be treated at this event and today did not live up to those standards. These changes will be the start of improvements we will be instituting."