Well, the 50 mph wind just ripped a 20 foot hole in the canvas roof of the press tent above my head.
Several of the 21 two-story-tall aluminum poles that support the structure have been lifted out of the ground, while still attached at the top, are swaying wildly from the bottom, bashing into banks of electrical TV equipment.
And the half-dozen 10-foot-long neon ceiling lights are swaying like a collection of berserk trapezes.
As a result, we definitely know two things: this must be Sawgrass, and it's time to write a little faster.
(Later: the evacuation is complete. The press tent, now empty, had more ambiance, but a brick building sometimes has its points.)
The weather forcast for Thursday, the first day of the Tournament Players Championship here, is for increased winds and colder.
Let's put it this way: if the winds get any higher, there isn't going to be a Ponte Vedra, Fla. This dateline will just be so much swirling dust somewhere out over the cruel Atlantic. Officials of the PGA Tour vow that for the last six weeks, the wind hasn't blown a puff.
Presumably, it's been saving its breath.The first 50 mph gusts above the Sawgrass clubhouse were recorded on Monday, the day of the golfers showed up. The pros on the putting green here, who look like penguins walking single file across an ice floe, have been complaining ever since they and their old friend, the Sawgrass wind, arrived together.
A year ago, everybody was amazed. The wind stayed away. Lee Trevino ripped Sawgrass apart, shooting 10 under par. Everybody said how strange it was that the legendary Sawgrass wind would blow its last chance, as it were, to annihilate the pampered babies of the tour who think a window fan is a hurricane. After all, the PGA had announced that in '81, the TPC, the richest golf tournament on earth, would move across the street to the new Tournament Players Club, where a stand of healthy pine and palm trees would buffer the breezes.
Obviously, the wind knew something the golfers didn't. The new Pete Dye course, due to technical difficulties, won't be ready for play until 1982, and the pros, who thumbed their noses at Sawgrass and thought they would never be back again, are at the mercy of the elements once more.
Even for Sawgrass, this event should be unique. The pros now have not one, but two golf cources to moan about. They've always slandered Sawgrass, calling it a punitive, inland-style golf course that was diabolically situated in a windy oceanside links setting. Now, they can grumble and moan about the new $4 million Players Club, just a mile away, which was built with their own money, but still looks only half-finished.
Golf pros are just as legendarily cheap as other pro athletes, but, where the Players Club was concerned, they had the same exalted hopes as Deane Beman, the tour commissioner, who called the new layout "the future of golf." The Players Club, introducing the idea of "stadium golf," would offer every fan "a 50-yard line seat." It would be breathtakingly beautiful. And, in its narrow, carved-out-of-the-undergrowth style, it would be brutally difficult.
This week, the pros have been dropping by "their" club to see how they like what's been done with their money. Guess what? They don't like it. Knowing golf pros, the most persnickety group of sports, you thought they would?
"Frankly, I'm disappointed," said earnest Tom Watson, after touring the new course today. "They've taken the undulating, up-and-down greens of Augusta National and miniaturized them. Then, they've put those greens on a narrow, punishing Harbour Town type of course. The greens are totally unsuited to the kind of shots that you have to hit into them. It's entirely too severe. That course isn't going to be any fun to play. There are only two fair greens on the entire course. All the others ought to be changed.
"It looks like we're going to have to go back into the coffers," Watson said to Lee Trevino.
"Hey, that's how architects always make their money," said Trevino. "You have to pay them more to come back and fix what they didn't do right the first time."
"Well," Watson volunteered to Trevino, "I'll put up $100,000 (toward new greens) if you'll put up $100,000."
Trevino raised his eyebrows. "I ain't seen it, and I won't until I have to play it," he quipped. "I wasn't in favor of building just one course for the TPC. I think a great tournament, like the Open or the PGA, should travel from one great course to another. That way, it's fair to everybody. But, it was voted in (by the players), so that's how it is."
Already, Tom Weiskopf has toured the Players Club with dye this week and given him an earful of suggested "corrections" on nearly every hole. In defense of the Players Club, Watson called the track "absolutely a beautiful looking layout, wonderful for galleries." Tom Kite, player-director of the Tournament Policy Board, acknowledged the problem with the greens, but said that "due to washouts, some of the greens are as much as one-third smaller now than they will be when Pete (Dye) gets the course the way it'll be next year. He and I went around the course yesterday and he is aware of all the[Word illigible] concerns."