SAN DIEGO — Nothing brings out hindsight in golf like the weather.
One year when the Match Play was in Arizona, the opening round was delayed by snow that covered Dove Mountain. And while it took five hours the next day for the snow to clear, PGA Tour officials told players to be at the course in the morning in case it melted earlier.
One player was furious. He said there was no way the course would be ready by noon, tour officials knew it and there was no reason for players to have to wait around. Fair enough. But if he was so certain of this, why not just stay at his hotel?
The player said he couldn’t risk not being at the course on the odd chance it was ready — the very logic used by the rules officials.
These guys are good.
But they are the best in the world at playing golf tournaments, not running them.
Brandt Snedeker was tempted by hindsight after one of the great final rounds on the PGA Tour on Sunday. He closed with a 3-under 69 at Torrey Pines in rain and gusts that consistently topped 40 mph. He went the final 17 holes without a bogey. He shot 32 on the back nine. His longest par putt was 3 feet.
Snedeker, who started the final round in a tie for 27th, was one shot behind and looking good when he finished. The leaders still had to play the back nine. A short time later, however, the horn sounded to suspend play and everyone came in off the course. Suddenly, Snedeker’s odds seemed to get longer.
“Weather looks perfect to me outside!!” he tweeted.
Was he joking? Not entirely.
“Last night if you had seen the texts between me and my brother … ‘I can’t believe they called it,’ and ‘I got hosed,’ and ‘Maybe it will be a good thing,’” Snedeker said Monday after his one-shot victory. “And my caddie kept saying, ‘Don’t worry about it. Maybe it will work out.’ This morning when I woke up it was, ‘We’re done, I’ve got no chance.’ And then the break of a lifetime. The wind is pumping into them the last five holes. You can’t make this stuff up.”
It was the perfect storm — bad weather, great golf — to make up a six-shot deficit.
As wild as it seemed to Snedeker, that’s what the rules staff had to rely on to make their decisions.
There was a mixture of disgust and irritation in the locker room Sunday afternoon when play was suspended for the third and final time. Players dealt with the wretched conditions all day, and about half of those who finished couldn’t break 80. And yet, it was clear that some were angry on behalf of Snedeker. They were in awe of his score and wanted to see it rewarded. To stop play meant a chance the leaders would have calm conditions in the morning.
Charley Hoffman, tied with Snedeker going into Sunday until he shot an 80, went so far as to post on Instagram, “Rules staff absolutely botched (Farmers Insurance Open). Whole field could have finished today. Rules officials need to be held accountable. Sorry CBS.”
Or maybe that was his idea of campaigning to be chair of the Players Advisory Council. Voting ends in two weeks.
Hoffman never explained what was botched. The two delays Sunday morning were a combined 1 hour, 35 minutes, so it’s not like the round would have finished, anyway. Mark Russell, the tour’s vice president of rules and competition with 35 years of experience behind him, no doubt would love to see players make these decisions. Because whether or not play was halted, someone was going to complain.
Snedeker was asked if he thought he could a run tournament. The answer was quick even by his standards.
“No,” he said with a big grin. “The thing I realize, that most guys on tour realize, is these officials do the best they can. They’re out there 15 hours a day. The forecast is what it is, and sometimes you can’t guess right.”
Stopping play for the final time on Sunday, which looked like a bad break to Snedeker at the time, appeared to be the right guess.
An hour after play was stopped, tents came undone and light fixtures dropped from the rafters. About a dozen trees were toppled, including one left of the 18th fairway where fans typically watch the long approach to the green.
Snedeker said he tries not to be critical of rules officials because “it’s an imperfect science.”
He also is honest.
“Now that being said, if I had come out here this morning and it was perfect, and I lost the tournament, I would have questioned why we spent an hour and a half in a rain delay when nothing had changed,” he said. “It would have affected my final standing in the tournament.”
It worked out for him. He even felt bad for the leaders for getting “the raw end of the stick.”
And then he summed up a wild day of weather with one comment that should remind everyone they are playing an outdoor sport.
“That’s just the way golf goes.”