Louis Oosthuizen approached the ball. He had a big putt to make on the 17th hole at Torrey Pines, one that could have swung the U.S. Open. Make it, and Oosthuizen would make par and still have a chance to keep pace with Jon Rahm. If he missed, it would basically end his chances. He approached the ball, looked down, and swung his putter.
Iowa’s NBC affiliate, WHO—Wikipedia says it’s always pronounced “W-H-O” and never “who”—did not want its viewers to see the big finish, apparently. Right after Oosthuizen made contact, the station did this.
This was incredible timing, the funniest possible way you could cut away to a weather alert. It was, it seems, somewhat of a serious one. The station reports this morning that a tornado touched down in Pella, Iowa, around 6:45 p.m. CDT—about 15 minutes before Oosthuizen’s putt—and caused damage to a farm. This was not the only time the station cut in to weather during the final hour or so of the U.S. Open.
At 6:06, the station broke in for a weather alert right after an Oosthuizen putt on the 13th. After the NBC chimes, meteorologist Amber Alexander told viewers there was a tornado warning issued for the Decatur County area. Only 8,457 people live in Decatur County, but stations absolutely should break in to alert viewers to severe weather. Fine. The update, however, lasted a full 12 minutes before the station returned to Oosthuizen on the 14th.
Another update came at 6:41, though NBC’s broadcast was just showing Rahm in the clubhouse at the time. This time around, Alexander noted new tornado warnings in Marion and Mahaska counties, and instructed viewers to head to the basement (or, failing that, the ground floor). This update lasted another 15 minutes. Then, just six minutes later, they broke in again on Oosthuizen‘s putt. I’ve compiled all three videos in one for you below so you can enjoy the constant interruptions and that snazzy “weather alert” music.
This time, at least, the station did a split-screen with the end of the Open; the final update also lasted a mere five minutes. Still, that’s a full 42 minutes of interruption over the final hour of the U.S. Open. Even a justified break into weather during sports is going to cause some anger, and WHO’s Facebook page is full of angry viewers. The top-rated comment sums up most of the complaints: “A lot of talk of nothing… repeat repeat. We live in Iowa we know how to seek shelter.” Some were angrier: “Get the f*ck off the tv. Why don’t you turn it up a notch and break into the Super Bowl to tell us Pisgah might get 3-4” inches of snow.” (About 250 people live in Pisgah.) Another man wrote: “I have dedicated 30 hours to the PGA!!! Come on!!” Other people were angry that, when golf was not being interrupted, the on-screen weather alerts covered up the U.S. Open scoreboard.
For the record, I checked on another station—my own recording of WCAU in Philadelphia, where it was hot and overcast but tornado-free—and Oosthuizen did miss that putt, and Jon Rahm won the U.S. Open. Sorry if you didn’t get to see the end.