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Outback rain, rain won't go away
After a near-washout Sunday, officials hope to finish the abbreviated golf tournament today.
By BOB HARIG
Published February 28, 2005
LUTZ - Perhaps the biggest surprise Sunday at the TPC of Tampa Bay was that any golf was played at all.
Overnight rain and an already saturated course seemed to suggest that the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am would have no choice but to resume today. That, ultimately, was the case.
But not before the 54 players who had yet to complete 36 holes in the Champions Tour event slopped their way through an hour of golf Sunday morning before the weather-plagued event was halted again.
By 11 a.m., the decision was made to postpone the already-delayed second round to this morning at 8.
"There's no good solution here. I don't know that there is a solution," said Hale Irwin, who, whether permitting - a 20 percent chance of rain is forecast - will have a chance to win his 42nd career senior title today. "We're dealing with Mother Nature and we're dealing with the unpredictability. And we know everybody is trying their best to get this tournament concluded.
"It's frustrating on all fronts. From my perspective, I frankly was surprised we got started. I didn't think we would."
Irwin played three holes, birdieing the par-4 13th, parring the par-5 14th and making bogey at the par-5 15th.
By that point, water had started to accumulate on the greens as the rain kept falling.
"The golf course was in good shape and we felt we could get a lot of golf in," said Bruce Sudderth, Champions Tour tournament director. "But as the golf started, the rain kept coming down ... and pretty soon we got to the saturation level."
Morris Hatalsky continued to lead the $1.6-million tournament, which has been shortened from 54 holes to 36. Hatalsky got his two rounds in by Saturday evening and was at 135, 7-under par. He can do nothing but wait.
Irwin tied him briefly Sunday with his birdie at No.13, then dropped a stroke behind with his bogey at No.15. He was 6 under with 12 holes to play.
Argentina's Vicente Fernandez was at 5 under after a birdie-par-bogey outing. His bogey at the par-5 14th was particularly frustrating as Fernandez believed conditions were unplayable.
"The green was underwater," he said. "I'm surprised (we played). It was much worse than Friday and we didn't play then. I know it's Mother Nature, but I was surprised we played knowing the we would have to come back and finish on Monday anyway. Why not just go to Monday?"
Fernandez was tied with Wayne Levi and Don Pooley, who completed 36 holes at 137.
Defending champion Mark McNulty had 12 holes remaining and was at 4 under with Tom Kite and D.A. Weibring, who completed 36 holes at 138.
One aspect that makes the situation difficult is that the second round began Saturday without lift-clean-and-place rules. Once a round begins that way, it must be completed under the same rules. That hastened the decision to halt play Sunday.
With more rain expected throughout Sunday, the TPC of Tampa Bay grounds crew faced a tough task getting the course ready.
"We'll come in at 3 in the morning and do our best to put it back together," said Jason Kubel, superintendent of the course.
There were 18 players who finished their rounds Sunday morning. Six others withdrew, leaving a field of 30 pros today.