Closed circuit
By Torleif Sorenson on 7/2/12
The grounds crew at Congressional Country Club and the PGA Tour staff on-hand pretty much worked a miracle on Saturday morning to get the course in some semblance of shape to host the third round of the 2012 AT&T National, the regular-season invitational event hosted by Tiger Woods. Late Friday night, the Washington, D.C.-area suffered through a short-but-severe storm (technically a derecho) that lasted only about 30 minutes and dumped only about 1/8th of an inch of rain, but winds in excess of 70 miles per hour left at least 12 people dead and over one million residents without electricity.

On Saturday, Mark Russell of the PGA Tour told CBS Sports that the crews simply dumped as much as they could of the downed trees, branches, and other debris into piles off the fairways. Russell explained that the clumps of storm detritus were ruled "ground under repair," from which several players received free relief.

Other golf tournaments have had delays due to inclement weather, but this is the first time many people can remember when a PGA Tour event was closed to spectators. Only Tour staff, some members of Congressional CC and the Tiger Woods Foundation, and grounds staff were on the course. CBS Sports showed some players waving and bowing to the few people on-course, as well as to the various squirrels watching the action.

To this writer’s memory, the nearest parallel in North American sports occurred in March of 1989, when several North Atlantic Conference college basketball games in Hartford were closed to the public because of a measles outbreak.

But just weeks ago, on June 10, Libya’s national soccer team was forced to play a World Cup qualifying match against Cameroon in an empty stadium in the coastal Tunisian city of Sfax, due to security concerns over player safety. (Interestingly, Libya won their match, 2-1.) Over the years, security problems and related concerns have forced a few other soccer matches around the world to have been held in closed venues.

Other notable sporting events have been delayed by outside circumstances; these are perhaps the most prominent:

Game 4 between the Edmonton Oilers and the Boston Bruins was delayed by fog that hampered conditions in the notoriously hot and un-air-conditioned Boston Garden. Then in the second period, a major power failure forced the NHL to abandon Game 4. The Oilers "swept" the Bruins in the deciding fifth game, which was played at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton where, as Wayne Gretzky later joked, the Oilers were sure that they had paid their electric bill.

The championship series of baseball was interrupted by the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which, tragically, killed 63 people and injured more than 3,700 others. The series was delayed for ten days.

In 1996, only the first 36 holes of the PGA Tour’s annual event at Pebble Beach were played; weather washed out the final two rounds, forcing the event to be canceled. Just two years later, rain forced completion of the 1998 event to be delayed until August 17, the day after the PGA Championship at Sahalee CC, outside Seattle.

Both of these PGA Tour events were canceled in the wake of the September 11, 2001 Islamic terrorist attacks, while the 2001 Ryder Cup matches were delayed for a full year, resulting in the Ryder Cup now being contested in even-numbered years.

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Image via Flickr, Keith Allison

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