Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'EL NINO' CONDITIONS; Tournament Was Windy, Warm, Wild This May Brings 'Mean' Conditions to Sawgrass, but Fans Enjoy It All

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'EL NINO' CONDITIONS; Tournament Was Windy, Warm, Wild This May Brings 'Mean' Conditions to Sawgrass, but Fans Enjoy It All

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTINA ABEL and BRIAN KOSOY

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - The crowds were thin, Tiger Woods wasn't there, traffic ran smoothly and fans kept their cool, but The Players Championship was still whipped up through the weekend - by the wind.

Even though it was a hot weekend for the tournament, with temperatures in the 90s, the wind kept fans cool enough to stake out the 17th hole for hours Saturday and Sunday, and may have made for a more interesting game with gusts sending many golf balls off course.

"The heat and the wind made a big, big difference," said O.J. O'Connor, a volunteer on the 18th hole. "That's been a real killer. Other than that, everything has run like clockwork."

Richard Darby, a volunteer at the main First Aid tent, said heat and wind may have been a factor in most of the patients he treated. In two days - Friday and Saturday - he said he saw about 25 people, seven of whom were sent to the hospital to be treated.

"They were mostly heat-related," Darby said.

Last year, the tournament was moved from March to May. Last May, the temperatures were cooler, with rain showers, compared with this year's hot, dry, windy weather.

Tom, Dick and Brian Lester, three generations of Lester men, didn't let the heat or the wind stop them from getting to the tournament early Saturday morning, staking out seats at the 17th tee and relaxing for hours in anticipation of the golfers reaching the famous island hole, which they did in the afternoon.

"It's been wonderful out here," Dick Lester said Saturday. "It's been windy, which has made the course mean, but that's more interesting anyway."

Some of the golfers agreed the course was mean this year.

"You can't really compare any other tournament to this one except last year's because of the date changes and the differences in the course," said Jim Furyk, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident who shot a four-over 76 in Sunday's final round to finish tied for 27th in the tournament. …

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