AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Three towering pine trees fell near patrons as storms rolled through Augusta National on Friday, though nobody was hurt, and the second round of the Masters was suspended for the day amid heavy wind and rain.
The course was cleared once for 21 minutes by an earlier band of storms. The air horns sounded again at 4:22 p.m. as another set of storms arrived, forcing the evacuation of patrons and sending players and officials searching for cover.
Play was suspended for the day 90 minutes later. The second round is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. EDT Saturday before the third round begins.
“The safety and well-being of everyone attending the Masters Tournament will always be the top priority,” Augusta National said in a statement. “We will continue to closely monitor weather today and through the Tournament.”
Just before the second horn sounded, three enormous pines slowly fell near the 17th tee box, sending about 50 people below them scattering. On the nearby 16th green, Harrison Crowe saw the tree falling and started to backpedal in surprise, while on the 15th green, Sergio Garcia stopped and stared at what seemed to be happening in slow motion.
“You could feel it down there. This little tornado whipped up,” Crowe’s caddie, John Serhan, told Australian Associated Press. “It caught those trees. You could see them start to sway. They were lucky no one got killed. Very, very lucky.”
The falling trees could be seen and heard from several holes across the property.
“We were cresting the fairway on 15. We thought it was a scoreboard or a grandstand,” said Sahith Theegala, who is playing in his first Masters. “We were hoping it wasn’t something that hit anybody.”
The uprooted pines fell slowly with two of them acting as support for the third, and that provided time for the patrons below to get out of the way. But the close call was evidenced by several crushed chairs beneath the fallen trees.
“I was talking to friends next to me and all of sudden we heard a crack,” said Katie Waites, who was attending the second round from Charleston, South Carolina. “And there were three trees across the pond, and all of a sudden we saw them falling and everybody — it was just like ants. They were like, scattering just like ants from beneath. All three fell at the same time. And then I just grabbed my friends’ hands we were like, ‘Is everyone OK?’ And it was silent.”
Waites said she saw one woman standing between two of the fallen trees, and she heard that a man had crawled out from beneath some of the limbs. She added that it was “absolutely a miracle” that nobody was hurt.
“Then the alarms went off and they evacuated again because of weather,” Waites said. “I called my dad. He’s a judge. And he said this time they are not going to open it back up. Get out of there now.”
Workers quickly arrived with chainsaws to begin clearing the trees away.
The storms had been expected throughout the day, and tournament officials moved all starting times up 30 minutes in the hopes of getting the second round in as scheduled. The morning dawned hot and humid, with plenty of sun, but it gave way to ominous clouds churning through from the east shortly after the lunch hour.
Brooks Koepka was the leader at 12 under when play stopped, taking advantage of fortuitous tee times that left him in the clubhouse long before the storms arrived. Jon Rahm was three shots back in second but had nine holes still to play, while U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett had finished his second round and was 8 under for the championship.
Among those still on the course is Tiger Woods, who was at 2 over and tied for 50th with seven holes to play. The low 50 and ties make the cut, and the five-time champion has never failed to do that at the Masters as a professional.
Rain is expected to continue throughout the weekend with high temperatures plummeting into the 50s for Saturday.
“Weather can be interesting, especially when you get storms coming in,” said defending champion Scottie Scheffler, who struggled to a 3-over 75 on Friday and was 1 under for the championship. “So we’ll see what happens.”