AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Heavy rains that left pools of standing water across Augusta National brought play to a halt at the Masters on Saturday, and Brooks Koepka and the rest of the field will have a long Sunday slog to decide who will wear the green jacket.
Many players had returned to the course early to finish second rounds, which were suspended Friday when a storm came through the area. It caused three towering pine trees to fall — nobody was hurt — and workers made sure there there was little evidence it even happened by the time patrons returned to the course.
The crushed chairs and other debris had been cleaned up, and all that was left were three 10-by-10 foot areas near the 16th green and 17th tee that were roped off. Some wood chips were scattered about where the workers had cut up the pines, and two of the areas were covered with green gravel and another with pine straw.
Sergio Garcia teed off at the 17th as he finished his second round, and the 2017 champion tried to crane his head over the patrons as he walked toward his shot to see where the trees had stood. Several workers around the area were still discussing what happened, and one called it “a miracle” that no one was injured or killed.
“I was standing on the right side, which is near 17, right by the back right bunker on 16 lining up my putt,” 1987 champion Larry Mize said. “Then all of a sudden, I heard it, and I looked around, and I saw the trees.
“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, people, get out of there,’” Mize said. “Thank goodness no one was hurt.”
Heavy rains returned early in the third round, causing play to be suspended. The forecast looks drier for Sunday, when the field will finish that round before playing the final round.
“It is what it is,” said 63-year-old Fred Couples, who was 1 over after his second round and broke Bernhard Langer’s record for the oldest player to make the cut at the Masters. “Am I going to look thrilled to play 18 holes in this this afternoon? No, I’m a wimp. I’m an old wimp. But I’m excited to play.”
Turns out Couples only played nine, three holes more than Koepka, who was at 13 under and had a four shot lead.
On Friday, the course was cleared once for 21 minutes by an early band of storms. The air horns sounded again at 4:22 p.m. as another set arrived, forcing the evacuation of patrons and sending players and officials scrambling for cover.
Just before the second horn sounded, three enormous pines slowly fell near the 17th tee, sending about 50 people below them scattering. On the nearby 16th green, Harrison Crowe watched the tree fall and started to backpedal in surprise, while on the 15th green, Garcia stopped and stared at what seemed to be happening in slow motion.
“We were cresting the fairway on 15. We thought it was a scoreboard or a grandstand,” said Sahith Theegala, who is playing in his first Masters. “We were hoping it wasn’t something that hit anybody.”
The uprooted pines fell slowly with two of them acting as support for the third, and that provided time for the patrons below to get out of the way. But the close call was evidenced by several crushed chairs beneath the fallen trees.
“I was talking to friends next to me and all of sudden we heard a crack,” said Katie Waites, who was attending the second round from Charleston, South Carolina. “And there were three trees across the pond, and all of a sudden we saw them falling and everybody — it was just like ants. They were like, scattering just like ants from beneath. All three fell at the same time. And then I just grabbed my friends’ hands we were like, ‘Is everyone OK?’ And it was silent.”
Waites said she saw one woman standing between two of the fallen trees, and she heard that a man had crawled out from beneath some of the limbs. Like the workers Saturday, Waites called it “absolutely a miracle” that nobody was hurt.
“The safety and well-being of everyone attending the Masters Tournament will always be the top priority,” Augusta National said in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor weather today and through the Tournament.”
AP Sports Writers Doug Ferguson and Paul Newberry contributed to this report.