US PGA Championship 2014: Colin Montgomerie vents fury at failure to speed up field

Rain forced play to stop for more than two hours

As if the job of winning a major was not hard enough, nature threw a curved ball at Rory McIlroy and his pursuers at the PGA Championship. Valhalla is the mythical resting place of Norse warriors. Presumably they made their way to Odin’s side in a long boat, which for a brief spell today was the only means of getting about Valhalla Golf Club. And the players caught in the deluge were not amused.

More than an inch of rain fell in minutes, forcing golfers to flee their posts for almost two hours. Spain’s Sergio Garcia resembled a Blackpool holidaymaker as he sprinted barefoot through the puddles with his trousers rolled up around his knees. All in vain, of course. A wet suit would not have kept Garcia dry in this tempest.

Only three groups had made the scorer’s hut by the time the horn sounded, including the American Bubba Watson. He would have preferred a later tee time and a pop at Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, but in the absence of that possibility Watson was happy to sign his card and get out of there.

The retreat of the storm released an army of hundreds tooled up with mops and brushes across the complex, squeezing and sweeping the standing water away.

Minutes before play resumed, PGA officials appeared on the tee boxes with towels in the manner of plumbers mopping up a bathroom floor after a leaky shower. Valhalla was looking at a massive laundry bill.

McIlroy filled his time throwing paper darts at Rickie Fowler whenever the cameras were allowed into the players’ lounge to fill schedules. He had not got his feet wet yet. That was not the case for Colin Montgomerie, who was on the 18th when it all got too much. He finished bogey, bogey, bogey, and was not happy.

“The weather has been against me,” he said. “It is a long enough course without this carry on, you know. I used 10 woods around 18 holes, driver and fairway woods. At the 16th I’m hitting in with a fairway wood. McIlroy is going in with a 9-iron. It’s a wee bit too long and has been made longer [by the weather]. This morning was completely miserable. The last four holes when it started to rain were unplayable.

“You play a major in Louisville, Kentucky, in August [and] you are going to get wet aren’t you? Humidity is bound to rise and come down as rain. They could have started earlier, three balls off both tees. The forecasting in America is fantastic. They knew it was coming. The last hole was a swimming pool.”

Montgomerie pointed to this year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool when tee times were brought forward on Saturday and two tees used for the first time in 150 years. When the rain came all the players were in. Montgomerie was adamant yesterday morning that a finish was impossible and was critical of the decision not to reschedule in three-balls off two tees.

“They think they are going to finish but they are not,” he said earlier today. “If they had gone off two tees they would have done. Nobody wants to be here on Monday. They could have got away with, instead of two guys finishing every 10 minutes, you’d have six finishing every 10 minutes. Big difference.

“It’s borderline right now. They got us out there because they want to finish tonight. They wouldn’t have done that otherwise. I can’t see them getting round in these conditions having to place the ball on every hole. It is going to take too long.” 

Montgomerie’s sentiments were echoed by Ernie Els, who was only two holes into his round when play was suspended. “The boys are a bit unhappy. It could have been better organised,” he said. “There were  lots of guys stuck out there without transportation. Me and Jimmy [Walker] were on the 2nd hole and it was coming up to our ankles. The official told us to stay put but we crossed the fairway to get cover under the trees. Then when we heard the hooter we just walked back.

“I was just talking with my caddie and JP Fitzgerald and in all our combined years – and that’s a lot of years –we’ve never seen anything like it. You would have hoped common sense would have prevailed, particularly these days when there’s all kinds of technology available to track weather patterns.”

As if to mock the mortals below the climate gods threw a hot sun at the course when play resumed. McIlroy gave it 10 minutes before heading to the range to start loosening up. “It’s not ideal but there’s no point getting stressed,” McIlroy said. “I’m happy to hang around until next week if it means I get to hold the Wanamaker Trophy.”

You could almost hear dear old Monty saying “it’s all right for him”. Montgomerie played his approach to the par-5 18th with a 4-wood. It was his third shot. McIlroy was in the greenside bunker in two on Saturday using a 5-iron. Little wonder Montgomerie identifies McIlroy as a golfer playing a different game to the rest of the field.