An Eye On The Sky Fine-Tunes The Golf Tournament Below
Golf executives have yet to find a convenient locale with a guarantee of perpetually sublime conditions, and tournament histories are thick with disruptions that some experts believe will become more common as the climate changes. Last year’s Players Championship concluded a day late because of miserable weather in Florida, much like this year’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California. In Augusta, Ga., in April, the Masters Tournament dodged its first Monday finish since 1983 — but it had to squeeze the end of the third round and the entire fourth round into Sunday. And the 2018 P.G.A. Championship had Friday play upended when electrical storms pounded the St. Louis area. The next year, six people were injured after lightning strikes at a tournament in Atlanta, where fast-developing thunderstorms are a summertime trademark.
Oak Hill Country Club, in a suburb of Rochester, is no place for an entirely predictable forecast, especially in May, when the region’s weather patterns are in transition. The nearby Great Lakes add to the puzzle since they can inject moisture and unusual winds. Williams covered the 2013 P.G.A. Championship at the club, an experience that was only so valuable this time around since that tournament unfolded in August.
For this year’s event, he began closely studying the region’s weather tendencies about a month ago, noting which forecasting models seemed more accurate than others in the area. He also examined historical trends.
“You’re always trying to stay in tune with how do the data sources behave at the site you’re at, so you can understand tendencies and bias that helps alter how you forecast,” said Renny Vandewege, a vice president at DTN, the weather company that employs Williams and works with the PGA Tour, the L.P.G.A. and the P.G.A. of America. (It is not always a private sector endeavor; Britain’s national meteorological service, which is under contract with the R&A, sends forecasters to the British Open.)
The influx of data, Williams and Vandewege said, helps, especially with technology that has rapidly improved in recent decades and models that now yield projections every hour. The human element, they insist, matters, perhaps more than ever in an era of easily accessible weather data.