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Climate protesters run onto 18th green and spray powder, delaying finish of PGA Tour event

Protesters are taken into custody after they ran onto the course on the 18th hole during the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo) Protesters are taken into custody after they ran onto the course on the 18th hole during the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)
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CROMWELL, Conn. -

Six climate protesters stormed the 18th green while the leaders were lining up their putts for the final hole of regulation at the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship on Sunday, spraying smoke and powder and delaying the finish for about five minutes.

The protesters waved smoke bombs that left white and red residue on the putting surface before Scottie Scheffler, Tom Kim and Akshay Bhatia finished their rounds. Some wore white T-shirts with the words “NO GOLF ON A DEAD PLANET” in black lettering on the front.

“I was scared for my life,” Bhatia said. “I didn’t even really know what was happening. ... But thankfully the cops were there and kept us safe, because that’s, you know, that’s just weird stuff.”

The PGA Tour issued a statement thanking the Cromwell Police Department “for their quick and decisive action” and noting that there was no damage to the 18th green that affected either the end of regulation or the playoff hole.

Scheffler, who was arrested during a traffic stop at the PGA Championship, also praised the officers.

“From my point of view, they got it taken care of pretty dang fast, and so we were very grateful for that,” said Scheffler, the world's No. 1 player, who beat Kim on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff for his sixth victory of the year.

“When something like that happens, you don’t really know what’s happening, so it can kind of rattle you a little bit,” Scheffler said. “That can be a stressful situation, and you would hate for the tournament to end on something weird happening because of a situation like that. I felt like Tom and I both tried to calm each other down so we could give it our best shot there on 18.”

Protesters run onto the course as Scottie Scheffler, right, walks away on the 18th hole during the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

Extinction Rebellion, an activist group with a history of disrupting events around the world, claimed responsibility for the protest. In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the group blamed climate change for an electrical storm that injured two people at a home near the course on Saturday.

“This was of course due to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather conditions,” the statement said. “Golf, more than other events, is heavily reliant on good weather. Golf fans should therefore understand better than most the need for strong, immediate climate action.”After the protesters were tackled by police and taken off, Scheffler left a potential 26-foot clincher from the fringe on the right edge of the cup, then tapped in for par. Kim, who trailed by one stroke heading into the final hole, sank a 10-foot birdie putt to tie Scheffler and force the playoff.

Kim said the protest took his mind off the pressure.

“It kind of slowed things down,” he said. “It took the meaning of the putt away for a second. Because for the past 17 and a half holes all you’re thinking about is golf, and suddenly when that happens your mind goes into a complete — like, you’re almost not even playing golf anymore. I thought it was a dream for a second.”

The crowd surrounding the 18th green heckled the protesters by yelling profanities and cheered the police who intervened. After the players putted out in regulation, workers with leaf blowers came out to clean off the remaining powder.

The hole location was moved for the playoff, which was also on No. 18. Scheffler parred the first hole of sudden death to win.

“They left a lot of marks on the greens, which is not right for us players — especially when two guys are trying to win a golf tournament,” Kim said. “But I’m very grateful for the tour and the tour security for handling that really well and making us players feel a lot safer.”

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