PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Shanshan Feng will have to wait a day to begin defense of her LPGA Championship title.
A steady rain punctuated by heavy downpours and an occasional bolt of lightning forced the postponement of Thursday's first round at Locust Hill Country Club. The LPGA's second major of the year now will begin Friday morning, the second round will be staged Saturday, and the players will attempt to complete 36 holes on Sunday.
"The problem became the golf course," said Sue Witters, director of tournament competition for the LPGA. "We had numerous greens under water, fairways puddling. If it could have stopped raining, we would have had a shot."
More than a half-inch of rain had fallen by mid-morning, and it was still raining hard more than two hours after the noon announcement of the postponement of play. Locust Hill officials figured the course could take up to three-quarters of an inch of rain, but the weather system stretched 140 miles and wasn't expected to completely pass through for seven hours.
That proved to be too much for an area that had received over 4 inches of rain in the past week and a half.
"We went as long as we could," Witters said.
The overnight forecast called for a break, affording the grounds crew a chance to get the course in shape. Scattered showers were expected Friday morning and there was a 20-30 percent chance of a thunderstorm during the day, but Witters said she was confident the course would be OK.
"I'd like to believe today was our worst day," she said. "The goal is to get 72 holes, but it's got to stop raining."
Witters also said Monday was still on the table, but with no rain predicted for Sunday and the longest day of the year looming in two weeks she was hopeful there would be enough daylight to complete two rounds on Sunday.
"We think we can play golf until 9 o'clock," Withers said. "That gives us extra room, and we'll need it. I'm not nervous yet. I wish we could have gotten some golf in today."
The one-day break was welcome news for some players since it came during a stretch of seven tournaments in a two-month span, including two majors.
"It's definitely tough because you're excited to get going, but to be honest with you I'm very tired with it being my fourth week in a row," said Brittany Lang, who planned to spend the afternoon trying on wedding dresses in preparation for the big day next January. "It's actually kind of good for me. I'm sure a lot of girls are definitely ready to get going."
When the first round begins, the focus of every player will be on one thing — avoiding the rough that was nearly 4 inches high before the rains hit.
"It is so hard to hit out of wet rough like that," Lang said. "It's nearly impossible. That rough, I think, is going to be horrendous after this much rain."
"If you're hitting the ball well, you can score well," Paige Mackenzie added. "You just have to be on your game every single shot. It does not allow any mistakes at all."
The inclement weather continued a streak that began two weeks ago at the Bahamas LPGA Classic. The course there was closed for two days because of severe flooding, and when the tournament finally got under way it was shortened to 12 holes. The LPGA Tour was determined to play with two new title sponsors and devised a 12-hole route that would allow the players three rounds to reach 36 holes and make it an official event.
Last week, high winds and tough greens created havoc.
The flooding in the Bahamas was caused by a foot of rain in about five hours. It wasn't nearly that bad at Locust Hill on Thursday, but it, too, wasn't pretty.
"Unfortunately, it's just part of the game," Mackenzie said. "Anybody that's played, whether it's professional golf or amateur golf, you go through events like this.
"I learned very quickly my rookie season when only 18 holes were played in Arkansas in a four-day span. There's going to be surprises like this. We're a pretty flexible tour. I think the hardest part is on the rookies. They want to go play. It's a major."