EDISON, N.J. - What seemed probable is now official: The Barclays, the first event of the PGA Tour playoffs, will be shortened to 54 holes and will conclude Saturday prior to the arrival of Hurrican Irene.
"We're looking at upwards of 10 to 12 inches of rain between Saturday night and Sunday evening," said PGA Tour tournament director Slugger White, noting that such heavy rainfall would not only make Plainfield CC unplayable Sunday but also Monday and Tuesday.
If the third round can't be completed Saturday - the forecast is "not the best," according to White, with a chance of rain in the morning and a greater chance after 2 p.m. - the tournament would revert to a 36-hole event and the top 100 in the FedEx Cup points list would advance to the next event.
Tee times will be from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday in hopes of getting the third round completed.
"After 2 o'clock, the rain is going to be with us, probably," White said. "Our hope is to finish prior to 2 o'clock. We'll do the best we can. If we had a decent forecast for tomorrow, we might have tried to play 36 holes tomorrow, but we didn't. Time restraints, not a good forecast - it was almost like shooting ourselves in the foot."
The Barclays becomes the first playoff event to be shortened because of inclement weather. It is the first PGA Tour event curtailed to three rounds since the 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
"We weighed all the options available to us, and under normal circumstances, we would obviously prefer to complete 72 holes," said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. "That's even more true here at the Barclays...But these aren't normal circumstances. We realize that waiting it out until Hurricane Irene passes and trying to play golf on Monday or Tuesday would only add unnecessary strain to those who will be tyring to help the community recover from whatever potential damage this storm causes. The safety of the community, our fans, players, sponsor guests, television partners and staff is of the utmost importance."
A foot of rain last week saturated the golf course. It could handle a bit more rain, perhaps, White said, but not the deluge expected this weekend. "If we're looking at six to 10 more inches of rain, we'd have probably four holes [on lower ground] that you may not be able to get a canoe to."
The soft layout produced more good scores Friday morning, with Matt Kuchar six under for the second round through 17 holes and leading at 14 under by one over Dustin Johnson, who as eight under for his round through 16 holes. As of 1 p.m., 93 players were under par.
UPDATE: "We fully support the PGA Tour's decision to shorten the tournament to 54 holes," said Barclays CEO Bob Diamond. "For the safety of all involved, this is the right call."
UPDATE II (player reaction):
-- Justin Rose: "Well, it's going to be the third and final round, so I guess that made today moving day. I guess I'm going to be up there with the leaders, but it's tough, that's for sure. So if you go out there now and you have a great round, you've got a great chance. The leaderboard is going to be incredibly bunched, it's almost not worth taking too much stock in your position."
-- Fredrik Jacobson: "Today it was great, so that was nice. The rest of the week, it is what it is. I think everyone kind of went in today not really knowing what would happen, but knowing this could happen so it didn't really affect us too much."
-- Gary Woodland: "Obviously you want to play 72 holes, but it's the right thing to do with the weather coming in. Who knows, Monday it looks pretty nice, but the golf course if it does what's projected, it's going to be pretty tough to play, so it was the right thing to do."
-- Bill Fields