Brian Allee-Walsh

Rain likely pushes final round of Zurich Classic to Monday

Storm clouds loom as grounds crew groom the 18th hole before the start of the third round of the PGA Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Saturday, April 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Storm clouds loom as grounds crew groom the 18th hole before the start of the third round of the PGA Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Saturday, April 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) AP

AVONDALE, La.

Birds, ducks and frogs love rain.

Grass, flowers and trees depend on rain.

Drought-plagued states need rain.

Fore!Kids Foundation CEO Steve Worthy, who oversees the production of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, hates rain. To him, rain is a four-letter word.

It has wreaked havoc this week with the annual PGA Tour stop at TPC Louisiana, beginning at Wednesday's pricey pro-am and continuing into the weekend.

It poured during Thursday's opening round, causing a five-hour work stoppage. And though no wet stuff fell on the 7,425-yard, par 72 Pete Dye property Friday, darkness halted play at 7:31 p.m. with 75 players still trying to complete their second round.

More of the same happened Saturday as third-round play was suspended at 1:16 p.m. because of inclement weather. Torrential rain pelted the course throughout the afternoon, causing tournament officials to push Sunday's scheduled finish to Monday.

And the forecast doesn't look any more promising for Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, prompting Worthy to look skyward in hopes of blue skies and Divine Intervention.

Problem is all he's seeing is, well, you know, more toad-strangling rain.

"It's frustrating because weather is one of the things you can't control,'' Worthy said. "All you can do is hope and pray and maybe we'll get a break. Yesterday, I kind of felt like maybe I should have gone into an indoor sport.

"We've been saying a lot of prayers, I can guarantee you that. This year they haven't been answered as much as I'd like. But we're still in there praying and fighting.''

Saturday marked the seventh consecutive round disrupted by Mother Nature at the Zurich Classic dating to last year. That includes stoppages caused by rain, lightning and darkness as a result of play being backed up by the elements.

The weather affects everything and everyone in its path: players, caddies, ground crew, 1,000-plus volunteers, security, sponsors, vendors, parking, transportation, media and especially the fans whose patronage helps the Fore!Kids Foundation assist nearly 50 area children charities.

"I have watched the radar on my Iphone more this week than I do the rest of the year,'' Worthy said.

"We started looking at weather patterns in the Farmer's Almanac six months out of the tournament,'' TPC Louisiana general manager Luke Farabaugh said. "We knew El Nino was out there so we anticipated normal weather this spring. We also look at weather.com monthly in anticipation of the weather patterns. But we really don't start diving into the probable weather models for tournament week until two weeks out.''

What did those models indicate?

"They didn't really show the Wednesday and Thursday downpours but the threat of rain Sunday has always been out there,'' Farabaugh said.

No one apparently saw Saturday's gully-washer either.

Incidentally, the last Monday finish in New Orleans occurred in 2004 when Vijay Singh won the HP Classic at English Turn Golf & Country Club. It has never ended beyond Sunday at TPC Louisiana with the Zurich Insurance Group as the title sponsor.

Keep your fingers crossed.

In other words, don't pray for rain.

Brian Allee-Walsh, is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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