PONTE VEDRA, Fla – As the weather caused a delayed start and a suspension in play for the first round of The Players Championship on Thursday, the tournament’s executive director asked fans for patience.
“This is the biggest event in our community of the year, and we’ve got a curveball with the weather here,” said Jared Rice, executive director of The Players Championship. “We’re going to need, over the next couple of days, a lot of patience, a lot of teamwork and collaboration and communication with the community because this is what we have, this is what we’re facing.”
Rice said the weather headaches notwithstanding, it was good to see fans back out at TPC Sawgrass without restrictions on Thursday. Last year, capacity was capped off at just 20% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To be able to get back and have golf in an unrestricted and an open environment is fantastic,” Rice said.
The first golfers were supposed to tee off at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, but play didn’t start until 7:45 a.m. Ground crews could be seen drying the course as best as they could after overnight rains. After a few hours of golf, play was suspended at 11 a.m. because of an approaching thunderstorm and spectators were told to leave the course and seek shelter.
The Players has its own meteorologist to keep an eye on the skies and help make decisions about when to pause the action at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra.
“Lightning and winds will shut us down,” DTN Meteorologist Wade Stettner says. “Of course, if the rain becomes too heavy where the greens start to hold water and resulting ponding, then they will have to suspend that just because of the rules of play but that would not be a dangerous situation and they would not ask spectators to exit the course in that event although people will get drenched so people would probably be heading for their cars anyway.”
There will be weather updates on electronic boards of possible delays and if people need to head back to their cars, or just evacuate the course. There are more than 20 of the boards spread across the course.
Rice called the tournament “the biggest event in men’s professional golf in the world by any measure” and said the key to keeping the tournament fresh for spectators is responding to fan feedback -- and, of course, the event’s 2,000 volunteers.