Why didn’t the PGA Tour move up Sunday tee times at the 2024 RBC Heritage due to weather concerns? It’s complicated


Why didn’t the PGA Tour move up tee times for the final round of the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

It was a fair question when a late-afternoon storm forced play to be suspended for more than 2 ½ hours and prevented the completion of the Signature event on Sunday at Harbour Town Golf Links. After all, the Tour’s published weather forecast called for an 80 percent chance of rain around 4 p.m. ET and a 40 percent chance of lightning.

So, why didn’t the Tour act accordingly when it considered the weather report of Stewart Williams, who has been a meteorologist for the Tour for more than 25 years? Gary Young, the PGA Tour’s Senior Vice President Rules & Competitions, did his best to explain during a post-round briefing with the media.

“The timing of it yesterday afternoon when we were making the decision, we had a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms. We did have a 70 to 80 percent chance of rain, but we were only looking at about four tenths of an inch that he was predicting, anywhere from four tenths to six tenths of an inch. The golf course was really very dry. We felt that could handle it easily. It actually held up very well through the rain that we got, but it was really the thunder and lightning that put us down,” Young said.

Play was suspended at 4:28 p.m. ET with the leaders on the 11th hole at the Pete Dye-designed Harbour Town layout. The threat of lightning kept the golfers from resuming until 7 pm., a delay of 2 hours, 32 minutes. Play was suspended for good due to darkness at 7:45 p.m.

“We did not expect that,” Young said of the lightning in the area. “Our meteorologist Stewart Williams felt that the front would be to our south when we came in in the morning, so we would be on the cooler side of the front, and it would keep the probability of thunderstorms down quite a bit.

“Unfortunately when we arrived this morning, the front had stalled to our north, which kept us on the warmer side and allowed for the temperatures to warm up, and of course late in the day we saw the thunderstorms develop.”

The decision likely was further complicated because an early finish is a killer for TV ratings. Viewers tend to be less interested in watching a sporting event if they already know the result. Final-round network coverage was scheduled from 3-6 p.m. on CBS.

RBC, which also sponsors the Tour stop in Canada, is currently negotiating a renewal of its contract with the Tour beyond this year and the Tour likely wanted to help its cause with the option most likely to generate the best ratings. In short, the Tour had reasons for staying pat and hoping for a 6 p.m. ET finish but it gambled and lost. This marks the second unscheduled Monday finish on the Tour this season and first since the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches last month.

The final round of the RBC Heritage will resume on Monday at 8 a.m. ET with nine players from the field of 69 needing to return to the course.

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