ATLANTA – Six fans were injured on Saturday when a bolt of lightning struck the grounds at the Tour Championship.
The PGA Tour released a statement saying EMTs treated six people who were injured by debris from the strike and transported them immediately for further medical assistance. It also said that according to its latest report, their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.
Third-round play has been suspended and will resume at 8 a.m. ET on Sunday morning.
Ambulances drove past the clubhouse at East Lake Golf Club on Saturday afternoon, heading toward an area where the massive bolt of lightning shook the grounds at about 4:45 p.m. ET.
Play had been suspended for about 30 minutes at that point, but fans were still standing around the property. PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell was asked whether there is a protocol in place for evacuating a golf course when play is suspended due to weather.
“Well, we suspend play, and we put on the scoreboards that weather is approaching and we want the people to take shelter and leave, but a lot of times they don’t,” he said.
Russell was also asked why tee times weren’t moved to earlier in the morning, given the strong possibility of afternoon thunderstorms.
“We have a meteorologist on staff,” Russell said. “We can monitor that. And a lot of times we get lucky and we don’t get hit with thunderstorms, especially when it’s a situation when they’re pop-ups like that.
“Now, that’s what we were faced with. So, you know, we’re going to see if we can deal with that. We can suspend play and get people out of here if that does happen, but a lot of times we’re on the positive side, hoping that we can play golf and get lucky and not be in the path of those thunderstorms.”
The lightning bolt struck a tree near the 15th green and 16th hole, and it was so loud that multiple players surveying the grounds from a clubhouse balcony shook when it made a huge cracking sound.
“It’s frustrating that they didn’t move tee times up,” Gary Woodland said. “You saw the weather; you saw it was an 80-percent (chance) at 4 o’clock. I’m sure with 30 players, they thought they could get it in. But obviously now wish they would have moved them up. Now you just hope people are OK.”
Matt Kuchar said it’s obvious in hindsight that tee times should have been moved earlier, but it’s not always easy to make that call in real time.
“We trust the Tour to do the right thing,” Kuchar said. “This is an easy one to (armchair) quarterback, and we should have and could have (moved tee times up), but we didn’t. We’ll figure it out tomorrow, and hopefully the weather will let us get around.”
Daniel Anderson of Marietta, Georgia, was near the 16th green when he heard what he called a sonic boom.
“And then it looked like a tree was on fire,” he said. “I shook. The whole ground shook. I just started to look for a place to go. Never seen anything like it.”
Only two groups had completed the third round prior to the weather delay.
Contributing: Steve DiMeglio