A massive lightning strike injured multiple fans and sent at least five to the hospital on Saturday afternoon at the Tour Championship.
The third round of the final event of the FedExCup Playoffs was sent into a weather delay on Saturday afternoon at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. About 30 minutes after that weather delay began, a huge lightning strike hit the top of a tree on the course near the No. 16 tee around 4:45 p.m. ET.
Fans had been asked to seek shelter when play was stopped, and all players had been removed from the course.
According to the PGA Tour, at least six fans were injured by the strike and were treated by medical staff on site. Five of those fans were then transported by ambulance to a local hospital.
A tournament official told the Associated Press that the spectators who were transported to the hospital “appeared alert,” though he did not know specifics about their conditions. The injuries are not expected to be life-threatening.
Round 3 of the Tour Championship was suspended for the day on Saturday after the incident, and will resume on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. Justin Thomas leads the field at 12-under, one ahead of Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka. The three only completed five holes on Saturday, however, before the delay sent them off the course.
PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition Mark Russell was asked why play on Saturday was not adjusted beforehand when officials knew that storms were expected to impact the area on Saturday afternoon. Russell said that they were monitoring the “pop-up” storm closely on Saturday, but did not consider moving the round up.
“Well we have a situation where they were pop-up thunderstorms,” Russell said. “We have a meteorologist on staff. We can monitor that, and a lot of times we get lucky and we don’t get hit with thunderstorms, especially when it’s a situation with pop-ups like that. That’s what we were faced with.
“We can suspend play, get people out of here if that does happen, but a lot of times we’re on the positive side hoping we can play golf and get lucky and not be in the path of those thunderstorms.”
We’re currently in a press conference in which several serious questions are being asked. Here’s one of them asking why play was not pushed up yesterday when storms were expected in the afternoon. pic.twitter.com/jRzylBvFvQ— JuliaKate E. Culpepper (@jkculpepper) August 24, 2019
Thomas, who was in the clubhouse with the rest of the field at the time, said it felt like the entire building shook when the lightning hit the tree.
“The first I heard anything was from one of my friends who came out to watch,” Thomas said, via the Associated Press. “He said, ‘Dude, I think someone got struck by lightning right next to us.’ And then word started spreading.”
Saturday’s strike was the latest to rock a professional golf event in recent months. A huge thunderstorm delayed the U.S. Women’s Open in May, where a huge lightning strike drilled a tree next to the No. 11 green. Then last week at the BMW Championship — the second of the three FedExCup Playoff events — Phil Mickelson nearly missed his final round tee time after lightning struck his hotel near the course. The lightning caused a fire, forcing Mickelson to evacuate his room and leave his belongings, including his clubs.
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