ATLANTA — Six people were injured Saturday when lightning struck a 60-foot pine at the Tour Championship where they were taking cover from rain and showered them with debris, Atlanta police said.
The third round of the season-ending PGA Tour event had been suspended for about 30 minutes because of storms in the area, and fans were instructed to seek shelter. The strike hit the top of the tree just off the 16th tee and shattered the bark all the way to the bottom.
Brad Uhl of Atlanta was among those crammed under a hospital tent to the right of the 16th hole that was open to the public.
“There was just a big explosion and then an aftershock so strong you could feel the wind from it,” Uhl said after the last of the ambulances pulled out of the golf course. “It was just a flash out of the corner of the eye. It was raining and everyone was huddled near the tree.”
Uhl said the people on the ground were moving around before the ambulances arrived.
Atlanta Police spokesman James H. White III said five men and one female juvenile had sought shelter beneath a tree. Lightning struck the tree and all six were injured. He said they were taken to hospitals for further treatment, all of them alert, conscious and breathing.
Ambulances streamed into the private club about 6 miles east of downtown Atlanta, where 30 players are competing for the FedEx Cup and its $15 million prize. The players already had been taken into the clubhouse before lightning hit, and before long East Lake was hit with a ground-shaking clap of thunder.
Justin Thomas, who had a one-shot lead through five holes when play was halted, said players were eating in the clubhouse when “it felt like the entire clubhouse shook” from the thunder clap.
“The first I heard anything was from one of my friends who came out to watch,” Thomas said. “He said, ‘Dude, I think someone got struck by lightning right next to us.’ And then word started spreading.”
Thomas said he had left tickets for another friend who was on the opposite side of where the tree was hit.
The PGA Tour canceled the rest of golf Saturday, with the round to resume at 8 a.m. Sunday, followed by the final round.
Last week at the BMW Championship in the Chicago suburbs, Phil Mickelson was delayed getting to the golf course when lightning struck the top of his hotel, causing a precautionary evacuation.