Raining, Snarling and Chomping

KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA | It was a great PGA Championship if you liked traffic jams, thunderstorms and alligators eating CBS microphones.

Maybe not quite as great for those waiting for Tiger Woods to win that 15th major, but as Woods himself said even before the first weather warning was posted, he’s got another 10 years or so to catch Jack Nicklaus.

What everyone else, other than the wunderkind Rory McIlroy, caught was a little hell, which maybe is why many in the field bivouacked at a luxury resort hotel properly named The Sanctuary.

After four days – or two – facing Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, named by Golf Digest as the toughest in America, sanctuary, real or imagined was a necessity.
At Kiawah, they’ve got sand but they don’t have bunkers, according to PGA officials. They’ve got a strain of grass, paspalum, which sounds like the name of something fed to babies. They’ve got two different nines. “The front is a nice playable course,” said Adam Scott. “And then the back nine isn’t.”

The golfers, admittedly, didn’t suffer anything more than a few double-bogeys and blows to their egos, although when even a club pro such as Doug Wade and Michael Frye fails to break 90, as happened in that torturous, wind-ripped second round, those ego blows can be quite severe.

The public took another sort of blow. It was forced to spend hours attempting to get to a place accessible only by two-lane road and subsequently attempting to get back, a chore of even greater difficulty. And greater time.

This is the southeast, where late afternoon summer rain is frequent. And this is Kiawah Island, a bit south of Charleston on a map (everything is a bit south on a map), full of ponds, salt-water marshes and areas where roads cannot be constructed (but baronial mansions and golf courses definitely can).

The weather forecast for the week was worrisome, although the tournament, and thus the fans, escaped the worst until almost the last, Saturday. Then out of the blue, literally, the sky filled with evil-looking clouds and the temperature dropped like one of Ian Poulter’s last-day birdie putts.

Finally, what we had been promised, a storm off the pages of “Macbeth,” full of toil, trouble and high wind came smashing in with lightning, thunder and rain. Especially rain.

Previously suspended, the third round then was called, to be resumed Sunday morning. Thousands of fans, soaked and weary, queued to get on buses which took them to their cars, parked, at $20 each, in a field a few miles away.

Someone by the handle of “Joanluvsgolf” tweeted, “2½ hrs in queu, hr on bus.” Or maybe it’s now been changed it to “Joandidluvgolf.”

After that ordeal, came the drive off Kiawah, or more accurately the wait to drive off Kiawah, cars creeping along under the archway of oak, pine and other trees, which line Bohicket Road.

“We knew going into it that (traffic) was going to be a little bit of an issue getting on and off the island,” Allen Wronowski, President of the PGA of America told the Charleston Post and Courier. “They have done a great job of minimizing it to make it the best scenario possible.”

Absolutely. Not one spectator was swallowed by an alligator, something which can’t be said about two microphones CBS-TV placed alongside the huge pond between the tee and green on the par-3 17th.

The gators, looking for a tasty morsel – you didn’t know alligators consider microphones a delicacy? – chomped away.

In the famous “War by the Shore” 1991 Ryder Cup, the water hazard swallowed a couple shots of star-crossed Mark Calcavecchia. Now the reptiles swallow a couple of mics. Wasn’t that Jim Nantz signing off, “See you later, alligator?”

Apparently, that farewell needn’t be uttered immediately by the folks who run Kiawah, host to the first major championship ever in South Carolina, Wronowski said the Ocean Course has a “great chance” of hosting another major, a frightening prediction.

For the longest time, after he won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, it was predicted Tiger would first catch and then overtake Nicklaus, who retired with 18 major championships.

Woods, as we know too well, had his problems, but this year he won three non-major tournaments and seemed prepared to break through. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able, falling from a tie from first after two rounds in the U.S. Open at Olympic and then a close third two rounds in the British. In neither could he make the closing push.

He fell victim once more at Kiawah. After 36 holes Woods was tied for first, but on the opening holes of the third round, before play was called, he hit more spectators (two) than greens (one), and went 3-over par.
Coming back Sunday, for the restart of the third and entire fourth round, Woods picked up strokes. Unfortunately he was too far back to pick up that victory. But at least he didn’t have to pick his way through the traffic on Bohicket Road.

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