Flashback Reads: 2005's PGA Championship Tee Time Debacle

I'm not going to wade too deep (yet) into the PGA of America's decision to not alter tee times Saturday in the face of a pretty bad forecast.  Expecting different results again and again speaks to just how surreal the scene was Saturday as the PGA repeated its 2005 debacle in 2016. While a Monday finish is dreadful for all involved, this may be the Golf Gods making a statement about playing this PGA prior to the Olympics or in a time of year prone to this kind of weather. Or both.

I went back 11 years into the archives when GeoffShackelford.com debuted on Squarespace. Found were a few gems from the 2005 PGA debacle. That's when Sunday times were not moved up and the event finished on a Monday.

Bob Harig writing in 2005 for ESPN.com:

For most of the week, temperatures have hovered in the high 90s, with much humidity. You don't have to be Willard Scott to know these weather patterns present an excellent chance for thunderstorms, including lightning. The PGA of America, which is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where this kind of weather is prevalent in the summer, should know better.

Several players wondered why the tee times simply were not moved up. The PGA Tour does it all the time when there is a threat of bad weather. Better to move up the tee times and have nothing happen than to wait and face what we now face. It happened at last year's Masters, where Mickelson won by a stroke. Nobody seemed to mind that Mickelson's victory leap came an hour earlier. Certainly not those who were there and those who got to see it on live TV.

The first tee time Sunday morning was at 8. Had it been at 7, there is a chance the round could have been completed.

David Whitley in the Orlando Sentinel likened the 2005 situation at Baltusrol to one of the most embarrassing mistakes in TV sports history.

In 1968, NBC switched to the movie Heidi instead of sticking with the New York Jets-Oakland Raiders NFL game. New York led 32-29 at the time, but Oakland scored two touchdowns in nine seconds to win and set off outrage throughout sporting America.

Heidi, meet Kerry Haigh.

As the managing director for tournaments for the PGA of America, he had to explain why the final round wasn't moved up to allow for the possibility of rain. Of course, everybody already knew the answer.

What TV wants, TV gets. CBS wanted golf action to lead right into prime time. God forbid there would be any down time before 60 Minutes.

The situation in 2005 was made worse when we learned Phil Mickelson asked that times be moved up after not being able to see the ball well enough on Saturday night. His request was denied. Alan Shipnuck wrote:

In the Saturday twilight Mickelson had trouble seeing the breaks on the final few holes and afterward beseeched tournament officials to move up the tee times. This request was denied, and ignored, too, was a foreboding forecast for Sunday-afternoon lightning storms, which should have spurred the tournament and the network suits to send the players out early. The first lightning strikes arrived around 2:30 p.m., delaying play for 39 minutes and setting up a race against the darkness. When another storm rolled in, the final round was suspended for good at 6:35, forcing a morning restart for all the marbles.

Then there was this back and forth in 2005 with Kerry Haigh where suggests they would end any event at 7, even if it wasn't on television.

Q. Truth be told, the weather forecast was far worse today than for any time of the week. There was just a chance of scattered showers early in the week and today every forecast I saw on The Weather Channel and locally were pretty certain it was going to happen.

KERRY HAIGH: The forecast was, I think, there was more of a chance of scattered showers but they were still scattered. If you look further to the south, they have had no activity at all, and we were within four or five miles of missing it ourselves. So I think the forecast was very accurate, that it was certainly very scattered. We were just unfortunate that it came too close and right on top of it.

Q. Let's see if he can drive this nail with a different hammer. You conduct a number of championships, some of which are not televised. If you were in like circumstance with a non televised championship, and you knew the details that you had today, would you err on the side of caution and adjust your time so that you didn't carry your championship over into the next day?

KERRY HAIGH: That's a good question. But no, I think we would have probably had we made all of our arrangements for a 7:00 finish and with all of the people and parties involved, we would have kept it the same.

Dave Anderson of the New York Times wrote back in 2005:

Maybe the organizers of the three major tournaments in the United States will realize that they should stop bowing to the Great God Television and schedule Sunday's final-round tee times early enough to better assure enough daylight, even if a playoff is necessary, for the finish.


The silver lining is simple enough: schedule the Sunday tee times in the best interests of the golfers and the golf fans, not for high ratings and the monetary interests of a network that demands a compelling lead-in to its prime-time shows.

Fast forward to 2016 and the explanations at least are just routing-based. From Cameron Morfit's golf.com story:

“It’s a major championship,” Haigh said, “and we want it to be run and perform as a major championship. We feel it’s important for all the players, in an ideal world, to play from the first tee and play the holes in order.”

Alex Myers with the scenarios for finishing. Few are very pretty based on the forecast.