Arnold Palmer Invitational interview: M. Russell and S. WellingtonMarch 24, 2013
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MARK STEVENS: We have Mark Russell who is Vice President of Rules and Competitions of the PGA TOUR, over here on my left, and Scott Wellington, tournament director. We'll start off with Mark, just kind of give us a general overview of the decisions, and then we'll have Scott afterwards follow up with the details on ticket, playing and transportation and all that kind of thing.
MARK RUSSELL: Well, we just got so much rain and wind; we've got some bunker problems; we've got a lot of standing water; that is the main thing. It just got to the point where we weren't going to be able to get the golf course ready. I mean, they're going to go out now and work till dark, and then do the same thing at daybreak in the morning and try to get ready to play.
We just got unlucky with the weather. That micro burst on the radar was about the size of a pinhead, but it hit us directly. Then we got that little train situation, where if we had been 30 miles north or 30 miles south, we might have been okay. But we just got unlucky. That is the way it goes. We'll bring it back and have them in position to play at 10:00 a.m.
MARK STEVENS: Scott, you want to talk about transportation and tickets?
SCOTT WELLINGTON: Yeah, we're still trying to figure some of those details out with our partners, but we're anticipating having to park everybody at Universal Studios tomorrow. There will be no parking on the golf course because it's just too wet.
So I just sent a notification over there to confirm that, getting shuttles running back over here probably at 9:00 o'clock, something like that, in the morning. We'll honor, obviously, today's ticket tomorrow, and that's about all I know right now. We're still formulating some other plans.
Q. Anybody get hurt out on the course today?
SCOTT WELLINGTON: No. The biggest thing, you guys know I've been around here a while, the thing we stress most is safety for our spectators and everyone, players. We got all the players off right away, and we did our best to get people under cover and out as quickly as we could. So I think we did a pretty good job under the circumstances, but to my knowledge, no one's been hurt.
Q. In hindsight, any question about starting the tournament earlier this morning with the split tee times?
MARK RUSSELL: We live in the present moment here. We talked about that yesterday. We had a 50 50 chance, and we decided to try. We were unfortunate that it didn't happen. But that was an option, but we decided to play off one tee and the weather got us.
Q. Was everybody involved in that discussion?
MARK RUSSELL: Everybody was involved. Absolutely, our television partners were totally involved in the conversation. We laid out the scenarios, and we decided we're going take a chance. You folks have been out here for a while. You've seen us play early. We just got unlucky today. It's unfortunate, but there is nothing we can do about it.
Q. What is wrong with the bunkers?
MARK RUSSELL: The bunkers are washed out and have a lot of debris in them. It's going to take them a while to get them ready to go, and a lot of standing water. We need to give the golf course time to drain. Hopefully, our meteorologist, Stewart Williams, says we're going to get some wind overnight and tomorrow and that will help too.
So hopefully we'll get out in the morning and have a nice day of golf. We've got about three hours and 40 minutes of golf left.
Q. Any estimation on how much rain fell in terms of measurements?
MARK RUSSELL: We were without power for the longest time. When we lost our Doppler radar capabilities down at maintenance here where Stewart was set up, and he called to the Champions Tour and talked with their meteorologist over there and they were giving him some information.
MARK STEVENS: 1.40 rainfall.
Q. You say you got lucky. Weather report last night, newspaper, everybody ..
MARK RUSSELL:. Unlucky.
Q. Yeah, you say you got unlucky, but everybody sort of knew this was coming. How were you unlucky?
MARK RUSSELL: Well, the rain hit us. I mean, take a look at the radar coming back. If you were in another area, it might not have been this bad. We thought that we'd give it a chance. This thing was moving fast, and if we got shut down for an hour, hour and a half, we could still finish. We wouldn't have a problem there. But we got the very worst of it. It rained for a couple of hours.
Q. What is the exact technical term for what happened? Was it a micro burst? Was there a tornado in the area?
MARK RUSSELL: There was a tornado warning.
Q. Somebody said there was an actual tornado.
MARK RUSSELL: I don't know about that. There was a tornado warning. Do you know anything about that, Scott?
SCOTT WELLINGTON: Yeah, when I went down to Stewart, there immediately was issued a tornado warning which obviously indicates there was some movement, but I think it was just north of us is what I was told at the time. But we clearly got I think he said 52 mile an hour wind gusts through here.
Q. Was there any damage to the tournament structures? How would that affect things tomorrow?
SCOTT WELLINGTON: We're doing, as we speak, we're doing a thorough investigation of the hospitality venues and all of the structures. We had some TV cameras go down. We had some fencing and so forth. All of the big structures to my knowledge, but I have not been out there yet, are okay. But we want to make sure they're sound before we put people in them. We have some other structures, smaller structures, tents and so forth that did come down.
Q. I think the thing that most people, if given odds of 50 50 on something this very important, would actually air on the side of caution. Why would you in the final round of this tournament, would you take the chance?
MARK RUSSELL: Well, we looked at a lot of things. If we played early, it was going to be a tape delay situation. People were going to know who won before it came on television, so it defeats our television partners. They wanted to take a chance. They've been involved in several situations where we played early, and it didn't rain. We did get lucky. It was just unfortunate.
If you look at the radar, right across Central Florida here, it got smoked, but I don't know what it did north of Stanford. Daytona Beach, I don't think they got that.
SCOTT WELLINGTON: We had a similar situation, I think, on Saturday. Like Mark said, we made a collective decision, and it was unfortunate that it went the wrong way.
MARK RUSSELL: Yeah, we were extremely lucky on Saturday. They called for all kinds of showers and storms on Saturday afternoon. It is what it is. We'll come out in the morning and we'll play. It's not the first time it's happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last.