PGA Championship Delivers Extra Drama in Darkness

The final round of the PGA Championship yesterday delivered a one-two punch of drama as not only was the play by eventual champion Rory McIlroy and others at the top of the field compelling, but a rain delay early in the day made the most important question not who will win the tournament but whether it would be finished on Sunday night or Monday morning.

“We were dodging bullets all week with the rain and what happened on Sunday was unbelievable as we had about an inch-and-a-half of rain in 40 minutes,” says Ken Aagaard, CBS Sports, EVP of Engineering, Operations and Production, of a storm that hit the course mid-day. “It drained pretty quickly but pretty early on we were making preparations to be finishing on Monday. But you don’t want to do that for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that finishing a major on a Monday is anti-climactic.”

CBS Sports let viewers at home see just how dark it was during the closing moments of the 2014 PGA Championship.

CBS Sports let viewers at home see just how dark it was during the closing moments of the 2014 PGA Championship.

The biggest issue following the rain delay was play on the sixth hole as it was very waterlogged. That led to slower play that led to the leaders having to wait upwards of 20-30 minutes to tee off.

“We were juggling all kinds of balls as it’s a big show and bad weather can often trip something technically that impacts a bunch of other things,” says Aagaard, adding that concerns over on-course talent and roving wireless mics and IFBs was a constant concern.

When the final two groups were on the 18th hole viewers at home were well aware of just how dark it was on the course thanks to a decision by the production team to show a camera shot from a camera without the iris wide open. But not only was darkness an issue: rain was also threatening.

“We lost the blimp around 7:15 and when that goes it’s not a good sign because it means something was coming,” adds Aagaard. “And while Rory was hitting on the 18th I was looking at the radar and we were on the southern tip of a major storm.”

The cloudy skies made it even more difficult to chase the setting sun and Aagaard says that utilities and runners for the network were pulling cars to the 18th green in case conditions required some artificial light. And then there was the biggest wild card: that Rory McIlroy could have simply decided it was too dark to play and that he would finish on Monday.

McIlroy, with a two-stroke lead heading into the final hole, played through the darkness. And even with the tournament completed there was still the issue of the trophy presentation and post-tournament interviews.

“While Bill Macatee was finishing up the presentation you could see that lightning was within 8 miles so we instructed all the camera people to get out of the towers and back into the compound,” adds Aagaard.

Aagaard credits CBS Sports Producer Lance Barrow and Director Steve Milton for keeping on top of the vast amount of storylines.

“I give them all the credit and it’s at times like that I am glad we have the team we have,” he says. “Even the casual golf fan would have been glued to the whole scene.”