Play was suspended for the day at Augusta in dramatic and deeply worrying circumstances during the second round of the Masters when three huge pines fell between the 15th green and the 17th tee.
Footage showed spectators running for safety when the trees tumbled at around 4.40pm and pictures following the incident showed fans’ chairs caught underneath them. The siren to stop play and evacuate the grounds soon followed.
Initial reports suggested that, almost miraculously, nobody had been injured in a crowd estimated to be 40,000 and that a freak gust had uprooted the giant conifers thought to be more than 100 years old. Augusta National Golf Club later confirmed that there were indeed no injuries.
“It sounded like a grandstand blew over, super loud,” said Sergio Garcia, who was on the green at the 15th.
“Two trees fell down from the roots and took another one on the way down. People scattered around them but there was one woman that the trees fell around her and somehow she didn’t get hurt. Thank God.”
Nick Faldo and Paul McGinley, who were working for Sky Sports, remarked that it was fortunate no one was hurt.
“Oh my goodness, my goodness, that is so fortunate. There were plenty of people around, that would’ve been nasty… We’re really lucky that nobody was… that was lucky,” said Faldo.
McGinley added: “That could’ve killed people easily… Because it’s not that windy out there is it? Did it get hit by lightning?”
Storms had been forecast but the season’s first major had appeared to have escaped when a suspension was made at 3.07m. The pause lasted only 21 minutes and the afternoon wave had been playing again for more than an hour when the drama occurred.
Grounds workers with chainsaws were dispatched to remove the trees, which were blocking the 17th tee.
Fears have long existed that an incident of this nature could occur. In 2014, a 65ft loblolly pine nicknamed “The Eisenhower Tree” after the former US President Dwight Eisenhower – an Augusta member who hit the pine, also on the 17th, so often he once requested it be cut down – was irrevocably damaged in a storm.
There will obviously be concerns that this might not prove an isolated episode, especially with poor weather due on the weekend.
A statement released by the Augusta National Golf Club confirmed that although play was over for the day, it would resume on Saturday with fans admitted as usual.
“Augusta National Golf Club can confirm that no injuries were reported from the three trees that were blown over to the left of the No, 17 tee due to wind. The safety and well-being of everyone attending the Masters Tournament will always be the top priority of the Club, which will continue to closely monitor weather today and through the Tournament.
“The Second Round has officially been suspended for the rest of the day. Play will resume Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m EDT. Ticket gates will open at 7:00 a.m. EDT as scheduled.”
Rory McIlroy had already gone back down Magnolia Lane when the second hooter sounded, after shooting a 77 to stand on five-over and looking likely to miss his second Masters cut in three years.