CHIBA, Japan — The pieces were in place for a seamless PGA Tour debut in Japan. Great field, great fans, great golf course. But the weather had other ideas.
The first edition of the Zozo Championship will have a Monday finish after Narashino Country Club was pounded with rainstorms on Friday. Second-round play is now scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. local time on Saturday.
Tiger Woods, who is tied for the lead after an opening-round 64, will start his second round at 11:10 a.m. (10:10 p.m. EDT Friday).
The troubles began when a typhoon hit Chiba late Thursday night, casting doubt as to how much golf would be played on Friday. Tour officials announced before 7 a.m. on Friday that the course had received 4/10 inch of rain, past the point of saturation, and that second-round play would be postponed until Saturday. The initial plan was for play to begin at 6:30 a.m. and continue until darkness.
Starting that early looked increasingly unlikely as the torrential downpour never let up on Friday. The course received nearly seven inches in total throughout the day. Images emerging from the course and nearby Narita made obvious the need to push back the start on Saturday by the extra three hours.
Tour officials also announced that the course will be closed all day to all spectators due to safety concerns given the conditions at Narahino outside the ropes.
The tour did not specify a schedule beyond the resumption of the second round on Saturday. The forecast is good, so it would seem that players could at least get in 18 holes on Saturday and begin the start of the third round until darkness, which arrives shortly after 5 p.m. local time. Sunday’s weather, however, calls for more rain (70 percent chance), explaining the early decision to have the tournament spill into Monday.
There were rumblings around the grounds that shortening the event to 54 holes was being discussed, given Sunday’s forecast and the World Golf Championships event in China slated for next week. But the tour has been steadfast in its commitment to 72 holes despite any logistical difficulties such a decision results in. As there is no cut in this limited-field event, all players will have to change their travel plans, and a few will have to alter scheduled corporate appearances slated for Monday.
It hasn’t been all negative—Friday’s rainout allowed some players to make the roughly 90-minute trip into Tokyo and explore the city.
But the remaining 54 holes will be a slog, as draining Narashino’s expansive bunkers becomes an especially daunting challenge for the grounds crew. The weather on Sunday will go a long way in determining how many holes they’ll need to play Monday to get in the full 72.