|Wind wins first round at SHO - April 02, 2009
Greg Norman was striding up No. 18 fairway, admiring a fine approach. Still 50 yards away, he watched his ball begin to roll back down toward the front of the green. After about 15 feet it stopped hole-high. Norman arrived shortly thereafter and marked his ball.
He conferred with playing partners J. B. Holmes and Joe Ogilvie and a call went out. Moments later, rules official Robbie Ware pulled up in his golf cart. He heard their story and spoke into his hand-held radio. A horn sounded. And that was it for day one.
The first round of the 2009 Shell Houston Open was blown into Friday as weather was the story early, late and in between. Thunderstorms delayed the start of play for 2 ½ hours, pushing the start of play to 9:50 a.m. (CST). The morning rumble gave way to a brilliant blue day but left behind winds out of the west-northwest that blew a steady 30 m.p.h. and gusted over 35 mph.
Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s tournament director on the scene, made the decision to stop play at 12:50 p.m., just after the incident involving Norman’s ball on No. 18, his ninth hole of the day. Russell said, however, that similar problems were occurring at other greens that were especially exposed to the wind.
He estimated that some gusts approached 50 m.p.h. and discounted the speed of the greens as an issue in stopping play. The Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club had been set up to simulate conditions players will encounter in their next event, the Masters, as closely as possible. Included are greens rolling at 12 to 13 on the Stimpmeter.
“They’re fast,” said Russell, “but with greens at any speed we couldn’t play today. We know 25 to 30 is basic Texas weather but this was over 45 mph."
Winds did not abate and play was called for the day at 3 p.m. “We got in a situation,” Russell said, “where we couldn’t conduct the competition properly.”
Play had never before been stopped for windy conditions in Houston but Russell recalled several such instances at Tour events. The most recent was at the 2007 Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head, N. C.
The forecast for the next three days is favorable and Russell said the plan now is to finish by 5 p.m. Sunday barring unforeseen delays. He expected to cut the field Saturday afternoon and finish the third round on Sunday morning.
Lee Westwood of England, who teed off in the third group of the day, managed to get in nine holes and birdied four of them to lead at 4-under, two shots better than eight players.