Sunday 12th August
I decided to get up at 5.30am and head over to the course and check out what my early assignment was for the completion of round three. Hole Officials had been advised to come in later for the start of the final round and so the rovers were to cover all of the early play.
My job was to go to hole 17 and advise the Committee that Keegan Bradley and Freddy Jacobsen were in place at the required time. I drove over to the grandstand behind the green and parked my cart. A large scaly head surfaced from the lake and headed straight for me. Fortunately the alligator was not keen to head for dry land and simply eyeballed me from the comfort of his bathtub.
7.45am and everyone was in position and so the airhorns gave two short blasts to get things going again.
Around two groups later I got a call that assistance was required on green 17. Peter Hansen and Tim Clark were at the green and I could see them both looking at the sandy area left of the green.
When I asked how I could help, Tim advised me that he was going to take an unplayable lie due to his ball being completely embedded just under the lip in the sand. His question was whether or not he had to drop the ball in the “bunker” when taking relief. As I mentioned earlier in the week, we played the course with no bunkers and all sandy areas being deemed to be through the green. In view of this he was entitled to drop his ball within two clublengths of the original position but not closer to the hole and this would effectively take him out of the sand and onto the cut surface. Neither player had considered this and so Tim Clark was delighted with the outcome. As the ground was sloping away from the sandy area, his ball rolled closer to the hole after both drops and so he was able to place the ball at the point where it struck the ground on the second drop.
I did get a call from CBS asking me why he had received a free drop on hole 17 and I had to advise them that it was in fact under penalty of one stroke. It seems that the ruling got some air time as I got a text message from one of my friends on the PGA TOUR saying that I had just interrupted his breakfast!
Once all groups had made it through the 17th hole I was able to slide into the clubhouse for a coffee and pick up all my new paperwork for the final round which was due to commence from tees one and ten in groups of three at 11.44am.
Andy and I were back over on holes 1 through 5 and since there was no hole official on the first I was positioned behind the first green.
The only incident that I was involved with was when I was asked to verify a penalty that Zach Johnson had called on himself on the 18th green. Zach was adamant that his ball had moved when he put his putter down to commence his stroke, which he continued with and putted out. Fortunately, CBS had coverage of the incident and Rules Chairman, David Price was able to view it and provide Zach with the news that it was a one stroke penalty. However, the interesting thing was that there was absolutely no evidence from the footage that the ball had moved and it was only the word of the player himself that caused a penalty to be applied. That is what is great about this game!
With play complete through my section of the course and all hole officials collected and returned to the clubhouse I was able to watch Rory McIlroy play his closing holes.
The last six holes were amazing with his up and down on 13 and 14, his recovery shot from the rough on 15, the up and down on 16 for birdie, the up and down for par on 17 and then the closing birdie to close out with the biggest ever winning margin was exquisite. Maybe now people will give him greater credit for his victory at Congressional in the 2011 US Open where people could not really comprehend how well he played on that course.
As a member of the Rules Committee I was permitted to attend the ceremony on the 18th green and have our photo taken with the Champion.
What a fantastic couple of weeks it has been and, as always it has been a great learning experience. A long trip home now awaits me and I believe that a few extra layers of clothing may be required when I get off the plane in Melbourne.
Saturday 11th August
A glorious lie in this morning which saw my alarm wake me up at 7.00am rather than 5.30am.
Andy and I were covering holes 10 through to 13 today and so, with all play commencing from the first tee at 8.50am, this meant that it would not be until around 11.00am that the first groups would be coming through the turn.
The first few groups were absolutely flying along but, as happens in so many of our own tournaments, once you get to around group seven or eight, the anchors seem to go on and you are back battling to keep them on time.
It was around this stage when a call came over the radio to say that an alligator was lying on the 12th tee and could Andy or myself check it out. I guess there is a first time for everything and so I headed over to see what was happening. Now, my daughter Morgan and I love watching Swamp Brothers and the like on National Geographic and I have seen their techniques for grappling with alligators down in Florida. It’s amazing what scenarios start playing out in your mind as you approach a teeing ground and see a two metre alligator sunning himself about 20m in front of the tee blocks.
The marshals had held the spectators back and so I went up on the tee to check things out. The next group had not yet arrived on the tee and so we had a bit of time to resolve things. He didn’t seem to keen on moving at first and the marshal suggested that I drive my cart up behind him and hence encourage him to move. I had just got back to my cart when the gator decided enough was enough and it was time for him to have a swim. He waddled off the tee and down a bank and gracefully slid into the nearby pond. I did look at that area very carefully each time I passed by as he could well have come back the other way and had a crack as I passed by.
Things were going pretty smoothly and we were at the point where Tiger and Vijay were on hole 7 when we were advised that a weather situation was developing and would be with us in due course. I double checked my area in terms of evacuation vehicles and their exact location so that I could assist the players in making a hasty exit when the time arose.
The sky went very black and we could hear heavy thunder rolling around as it approached us. There was no messing around when the decision was made to suspend. I basically had five seconds notice to grab my airhorn when the 3-2-1 coundown was made and we gave one prolonged blast to advise the players that they had to cease play.
It was like a well oiled machine. The horns sounded at 4.50pm and we checked ball positions, removed tee markers, collected hole officials and headed for the clubhouse. Everyone made it back under cover before the heavens opened and a torrential downpour started along with thunder and lightning.
Unfortunately, once the initial storm went through and second front built up meaning that it was not going to be possible to recommence play this evening. This left us speculating how the Tournament Committee would restructure play on the final day.
The decision was reached that the vans would leave the clubhouse at 7.30am tomorrow with all players to be in position to recommence play at 7.45am.
It was going to be another big day tomorrow!
Firday 10th August
The alarm went off at 5.30am but it wasn’t the first time I had been awake. A massive thunderstorm hit around 3.45am and my window was lit up with a massive sheet of lightning. Any delay today would be a nightmare but I guess we had at least got one of the big rounds under our belts.
It was still dark as I drove to the course at 6.00am as sunrise was not officially until 6.40am. As with yesterday some of the local deer were still walking home from their overnight “stag” parties and seemed oblivious to the cars driving past them.
The forecast was not too bad for the day but with winds being stronger we knew that this would again play havoc with the pace of play.
My assignment for today was to cover holes 1 through 5 with Andy McFee and it was clear from the get go that the layout of the opening holes was going to present us with a challenge when trying to keep groups in position.
Hole one is a straight forward par 4 which every group plays on or under time, however, the par five second hole can be hit in two and consequently groups are waiting in the fairway to play. The lengthy walk from the tee around the marshlands that lie between it and the fairway means that the players take forever to get to their drives and by 8.30am there are groups waiting on the tee.
The main problem arises when the groups who started from hole ten start coming through as they are a little bit more spread out. To be out of position, a group must be over the time schedule and, on a par four or five, must have failed to get all tee shots in the air before the pin goes in on the green ahead. With the second hole playing as it was, every group was in position coming off the tee but with hole three being a short par four, it was easy for them to be out of position standing on the third tee.
Several groups were in fact put on the clock on hole three or four in order to get them back in as quickly as possible.
I had only one actual ruling today and that was with Dustin Johnson on the cross walk at hole two. This was a straight forward relief situation as the cross walks are deemed to be ground under repair.
As the day wound on it was starting to look like we were not going to get finished. The weather had been incredible with thunder and lightning passing around us but at least 15km away and so all we got was wet a few times.
The weather team on site did an absolutely amazing job and were spot on with all of their forecasts. It was a touch easier having someone else having to make the big calls rather than being responsible for suspensions at our own Tour events. As members of the Rules Committee we are kept briefed of the situations and we have an airhorn at the ready at all times but it is the PGA of America Tournament Director, Kerry Haigh who has the ultimate responsibility of having us sound the sirens.
Our side kept working the groups hard as daylight started to fade and we were fortunate enough to have the final group hole out around 8.10pm. The back nine, which plays decisively tougher, was running a bit behind us and when it was decided to sound the siren for a non-dangerous suspension due to bad light, one group were still on hole 18.
Two members of the group were not going to make the cut and so decided to play out the hole while the third player decided to call it a day and return in the morning to complete his round.
This was another monster day and I was shattered when I got back to my villa at around 9.00pm
It was incredible to think that we had almost pulled off the two big days on schedule but even having the one player come back in the morning would have no impact on the days play but only have an effect on the production of the programmes and draw sheets for the general public.
The day was not over however for the Chairman of the Rules Committee, as they had to meet to discuss the fate of a player who had called in to say that he had failed to recreate a lie in the sand after having moved some sand to identify his ball during the round. The player’s honesty saw him disqualified for failing to include the two stroke penalty on his scorecard and this brought the field down to an even 72 players for the weekend.
Thursday 9th August
After days of thunderstorms, the golfing gods smiled on Kiawah Island today with a calm but hot and sticky morning greeting me as I left our villa at 6.00am. Although I was roving on holes 14 through 18, I decided to get there early and grab some breakfast before heading out onto the course.
The roads were reasonably quiet, to the extent that I passed a couple of deer on the way to the car park. Between deer, alligators and snakes there is plenty to see out here on the island.
I grabbed all my paperwork from the tournament office and headed over to the buggy park to collect my steed for the day.
Unlike the US Open or The Open Championship, Rules Officials are positioned on each hole for the day with rovers then covering sections of the course to maintain the pace of play and provide second opinions where required. There is very little shade on the back nine and so it was going to be essential that everyone kept up their fluid intake as there was no provision for lunch or snack breaks. As rovers we were responsible for looking after the officials in our zone. I was paired up with Andy McFee from the European Tour for the week and we arranged which holes we would keep an eye on. I took 16 green onwards and Andy slid down to hole 15.
The 17th hole is a long par 3 with a lake in front of and to the right of the green. The pin was tucked in the back left corner and, with the wind coming off the sea to the right, the line of play was over the right edge of the green and allowing the breeze to push the ball left.
Six players hung it out too far during the day and, after watching their ball hit the water, took the option of playing their next stroke from the optional drop zone on the forward tee.
Just to make sure that I was kept entertained for the day, one of the local alligators kept swimming around the lake checking out what was going on in his neighbourhood.
I was first called into action when a second opinion was required on hole 17 for a ball embedded through the green. The Local Rules did provide relief without penalty for a ball embedded through the green, however, as this ball was embedded in sand the exception applied and the player was not entitled to a free drop.
A little later I was called to hole 16, again for a second opinion. This time it was to assess the penalty that should be applied to a player whose ball had moved during his backswing. The ball had been perched in grass in the rough and as the player drew his club back to make a stroke, the ball moved slightly before the clubhead made contact with it. Once I was given a clear explanation of what had transpired by the player and his caddie it was a straight forward decision to apply a one stroke penalty and play the ball from its new position.
It was a pretty tough job trying to keep all groups in position throughout the day. Kiawah is a challenging golf course and with a full field of 156 playing on Thursday and Friday a significant number of groups were deemed to be out of position and were either asked to close the gaps or put on the clock.
I had no sooner spoken with Aaron Baddeley’s group coming off tee 18 when he told me that they may need some assistance with the grandstands on the left of the fairway. Aaron’s ball was up tight against the structure and was entitled to relief without penalty more than one but less than two clublengths away. As he still had physical interference at the one clublength point we had to establish the point where both the interference and intervention no longer existed and then drop within one clublength of that point.
It was draining being out in the sun all day with no shade available and no breeze to speak of coming off the water. The players were finding it a battle getting around this Pete Dye layout and by late afternoon we were running at 50 minutes over schedule.
This meant that my final group, featuring Robert Allenby, putted out on hole 18 at 8.00pm in the gathering gloom. After 13 hours straight on the golf course it was time to hit the shower before joining my European Tour colleagues for a home cooked steak and a glass of wine before getting my gear ready for round two and hitting the sack.
Wednesday 8th August
Another early rise this morning as our Rules meeting was scheduled for 7.30am. The rain was pouring down and the lightning was flashing across the sky as I got ready.
The main agenda item was to go through all aspects of the tournament in relation to Rules Assignments and possible scenarios.
There will be an official posted on each hole and then there will be eight rovers covering four specific zones around the course. There will also be two general rovers.
I will be a rover again this week providing support to the hole officials and timing any groups that may be out of position.
At 9.30am we had a Rovers meeting to ensure that we are all singing from exactly the same song sheet. A line has been drawn regarding abnormal conditions, particularly in relation to the sandy waste areas, with no relief without penalty being provided for a ball in a footprint or tyre mark.
After heading out to the course, the first thing that we did was grab a cart and head out on the front nine to check out the final lateral water hazard markings that had been decided for the rear of green two. We continued on around the front nine but were called to a halt on reaching the ninth fairway. Another storm front was approaching fast and we were required to assist with evacuating the course. The rain started coming down quite heavily and I got a decent soaking before the countdown started for the horn to be blown. The incoming front was another good one and resulted in a lengthy suspension.
After the break there was a short teaching session on Temporary Immovable Obstruction relief for those officials who had not had much experience with them before. I still like to attend anything like this as it tunes you in and also provides a different perspective on how to get the information across.
As soon as this was completed it was time for another sweep of the back nine as I will be working holes 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 tomorrow with Andy McFee. My new friend the alligator was still cruising around in the hazard on 17 and so there will be no assistance given for ball searches in there tomorrow!
It will be a quiet night tonight with some reading to be done to check through all our notes for tomorrow.
I am really looking forward to starting my eighth Major Championship.
Tuesday 7 August
I had planned to head out to the course at around 8am and check in with the Tournament Office. It was great to catch up with the PGA of America staff that I have worked with at a number of Open Championships. Everyone is extremely friendly and helpful, making you feel very welcome.
There were no carts available to us today and so myself, JP and Andy McFee headed to the 10th tee to start our course walk.
It was hot and sticky over the first few holes but the intensity just increased as another storm front approached Kiawah. We were all required to take an air horn with us on the walk so that we could assist with any suspension of play due to a dangerous situation.
Just to prove that nobody was kidding when they said beware of the alligators, there was a big rascal swimming around in the water hazard on hole 17!
The big talking point prior to this week was the decision made by the PGA of America to have no “bunkers” on the golf course during the Championship. When only 15% of the sandy areas out on the course are in the form of traditional bunkers, the decision does make very good sense. All sandy areas are deemed to be through the green, unless of course they lie within a hazard, and therefore competitors can ground their club, take practice swings, remove loose impediments etc.
Play was indeed suspended before we had progressed past the 17th green. A ripper front was on its way and everyone was advised to head for cover. We had no sooner made it back to the clubhouse when the storm hit and lightning filled the sky. Sun umbrellas went flying and the course went under water.
After a lengthy period, during which players could not play or practice, the air cleared and we headed out onto the front nine for a look around.
The fairways are pretty generous but there are also a significant number of water hazards out there. The par three holes are pretty challenging and, as the fairways are now quite soft, the bigger hitters will have a significant advantage on the par five holes. There is little or no run and so carry becomes a premium off the tee.
The caddies are really going to earn their pay this week as it will be very tiring carrying a big bag around in this heat.
Back to the apartment to get my laundry completed before heading round to Chez European Tour for a home cooked meal.
Monday 6 August
The alarm was certainly not a welcome sound at 4.45am this morning but at least all my packing had been done last night.
My ride to the airport was a little bit ahead of schedule and so we headed out at 5.20am. The self service system here in the States always seems a bit clumsy when you go to check in as you always have a handful of paperwork and cards in your hand as well as your hand luggage.
Anyway, all fairly painless as I progressed through the security check and bumped into golf presenter Luke Elvy who has been based over here for a while. I should have guessed that things were going too well because we ended up sitting on the plane for an hour due to an electronics malfunction and that meant my next connection was never going to stand a chance.
My stop in Atlanta ended up being a three hour delay but at least my bags were there waiting for me when I arrived.
It was raining cats and dogs when I landed in Charleston at 3pm but the drive out to Kiawah Island was quite pleasant. There is only one road in and out of the island and so it can become pretty congested.
It is certainly hot and steamy here and the storms that are produced are pretty spectacular.
As I didn’t get checked into my accommodation until after 4.30pm I decided not to drive out to the Ocean Course. We are based in apartments on the island but still face a 20 minute drive to get over to the golf course.
My colleague from the European Tour, John Paramor arrived a couple of hours after me but insisted that we take the opportunity to drive back out to Charleston for dinner and have a drive around the old quarter.
Some of the architecture is beautiful and I hope to get the chance to see it in daylight before heading home next Monday.