Tiger Woods’s historic win at the Masters tournament was a comeback story for the ages and the sports story of the year so far. But lost in Tiger-mania was the other major story of the tournament: the weather.
Sunday’s weather not only altered the schedule of the prestigious tournament but also ultimately played a profound role in the outcome.
On Saturday, an outbreak of severe weather across Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas caught the attention of tournament officials, prompting them to do something they had never done in the history of the event.
The announcement came just after 5 p.m. Saturday evening: For the first time, the start time for the final round of the Masters tournament had been moved up to the early-morning hours. The hope was to finish the tournament ahead of the severe weather forecast for Sunday afternoon and avoid the tournament’s first Monday finish since 1983.
As it turns out, the decision could not have worked out more perfectly. Officials at Augusta National Golf Club consulted and used professional weather forecasts to make a sound logistical decision.
For several days leading up to the tournament, forecasters spread the message of severe weather possibly affecting the final two rounds, particularly Sunday. Models were rather consistent in their predictions, suggesting that the line of thunderstorms would steadily march to the east throughout the day Sunday, maintaining their strength.
By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, the drama kicked into high gear. Woods was making his run, the leader board was packed at the top, and everyone was racing against the weather.
But before it all came to end, the weather would play one more key role in the tournament’s outcome. As the final group of the tournament, Woods, Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari approached the par-3 12th hole, Molinari was in the lead at -13, with Woods two shots back and Finau three back. Enter Mother Nature.
The short, 155-yard hole at Augusta is one of the more infamous golf holes in the world, with six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus describing it as “the hardest tournament hole in golf.” With the green surrounded by water, the par 3 sits at one of the lowest points on the course, making it the perfect environment for wind to wreak havoc. And wreak havoc it did.
The final group teed off on the 12th at approximately 12:35 p.m. Sunday afternoon, just as an isolated storm was heading for Augusta. Ahead of the approaching storm cell, winds began to pick up out of the south, gusting to over 20 mph. There is little doubt that the gusty winds, blowing directly in the face of the golfers, knocked down the distance on Molinari’s shot and pushed it into the water. It did the same for Finau. But after Woods safely put his ball on the green, the trajectory of the tournament had been forever altered.
Less than two hours later, the tournament was over, and not a moment too soon. As Woods was hoisting the trophy and putting on his fifth green jacket, heavy rain and lighting was closing in on golf course. There was even a storm and tornado warning just to the north of Augusta, but the Masters finished on time without anyone getting wet — or, more important, without anyone getting hurt.
Accurate weather forecasts and sound decisions by tournament officials made the 2019 Masters the new gold standard how collaborative decision-making and effective hazard communications can work seamlessly to ensure a successful and safe outcome for large public events.