Rain postpones first round of Masters - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Rain postpones first round of Masters

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2003 10:58 am | Updated: 1:13 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The first round of the Masters was called off Thursday for the first time in 64 years after more rain fell on an already water-logged course.

Tiger Woods' quest for a third straight green jacket is now set to begin Friday at Augusta National Golf Club. Officials hope to get in 36 holes then, though more rain was expected in the morning.

"We believe this golf course is unplayable," said Will Nicholson, chairman of Augusta National's competition committees. "This golf course will just not take any more water."

Intermittent rain and showers have fallen on Augusta since Sunday. The course didn't open for practice Monday, and the popular par-3 contest was rained out Wednesday.

In all, nearly 4 inches of rain have fallen since the start of the week.

"I've never seen anything like this here," said Ray Floyd, the 1976 Masters champion. "I know the decision not to play was tough, but what else can you do?"

Woods, who was initially scheduled to tee off at 10:44 a.m., didn't come to the course in the morning. He hoped to get in some practice in the afternoon, but only if the rain relented.

"I'll just see how it goes," he said. "I feel bad for the fans, but given how wet the course was, I'm sure tournament officials did the right thing."

The club did its best to get the first round in. A day earlier, the scheduled 8:10 a.m. EDT start time was pushed back 30 minutes in an attempt to repair the course.

Early Thursday, the start time was moved back again to 11 a.m. About 10 minutes before play was scheduled to begin, officials announced that no golf would be played.

It was ugly out there - the course was dotted with impromptu ponds and the temperature wasn't expected to crack 50 degrees.

Nicholson said the most troublesome hole was No. 3, a soggy mess after all the rain.

"We had a terrible time finding any place for relief from casual water," he said. "With more rain expected, I'm not sure we'll have any place for relief."

The greens were in reasonably good shape, thanks to an underground system that literally sucks water out of the grass.

Before the rain, "this course was never in better condition," Nicholson said. "The fairways were firm and fast. The greens were firm. The conditions were absolutely perfect to play the course the way it was designed. Unfortunately, we have not yet seen that."

After the storm front moves through, warm, sunny days are expected this weekend.

"If at all possible, we want to finish play on Sunday," Nicholson said. "I learned long ago never to speculate on the future. If we have weather like we've been told, we'll complete 72 holes sometime."

He didn't go any further, drawing laughter. The last time a Masters finished on Monday was 20 years ago.

Under these circumstances, it figures to be a grueling tournament, and the best-conditioned players will certainly have an advantage on a 36-hole day.

"We're going to play about 15,000 yards and about 10,000 of it is going to be wet," Rocco Mediate said. "Fitness is a good thing."

Scott Hoch was strolling to the driving range when the announcement came.

"My approach stays the same, whether it's a regular PGA Tour, the Masters or the British Open. I just go out and play," Hoch said. "Thirty-six holes doesn't bother me. I'm old, but I'm in good shape.

Instead of working on his short game, Hoch had to decide what movie to see with his wife.

"I'm sure there are some things she wants to see," He said. "There's some things I want to see, too. I usually just have to work with her on that."

It was the first time an entire round was postponed since 1983, when rain washed out Friday's play.

Rain now joins the list of other themes running concurrently at this year's Masters - Woods' pursuit of a third straight victory and Martha Burk's protest against the club's all-male membership.

Burk plans to picket the club on Saturday, when sunny skies are expected.

That hasn't been the case so far. The sun disappeared Sunday morning, replaced by persistent showers.

Many fans were coated with mud on their way out of the course. Some cars struggled to escape the gooey parking lots.

"We're going to be bumming on the way home," said fan Diane Warll, who drove from Florida planning to see some golf, only to be disappointed.

The driving range remained open even after play was called. Players would hit a shot, then duck back under their umbrellas in a futile attempt to stay dry.

"If I can, I want to practice a little, hit a few balls, get used to the greens and go from there," two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer said.

With all the rain, Augusta National figures to play longer than ever - another advantage for Woods in his pursuit of history.

"It favors someone who is hitting the ball high and long and straight," Woods said Wednesday. "You've got to keep the ball in the fairway, but you've got to get it out there."

The club reiterated that players wouldn't be able to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairway. Mud on the ball makes it difficult to control where it's going, and control is everything at Augusta.

"We believe in the traditional way to play the game," Nicholson said, "and that's the way we intend to play."

Last year, the tournament also was plagued by rain, forcing fans to slog through mud and causing a foul stench to settle over the course.

"I told friends last year, 'I've never see it like this. You'll never see it like this again,'" Lee Janzen said. "I was wrong. It's worse this year than last year. I think it's a good decision not to play."

The muddy debacle in 2002 began a streak of five straight majors that have been affected by bad weather.

Augusta National has no plans to consider a later date, such as May, when the tempestuous spring weather might be more favorable.

"We're traditionalists," Nicholson said. "We've always played on the first full week in April that ends on Sunday. So here we are."

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