MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) - Dove Mountain looked more like a winter wonderland than a golfing venue after driving snow forced play to be abandoned in the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday.
Just over three-and-a-half hours of golf was possible on a bitterly cold and breezy morning before rain, sleet and then snow led to matches being suspended at the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event.
Ice formed on the greens and, with further snow showers forecast for the rest of the day in Arizona’s high desert, officials called off play for the day after waiting a couple of hours to re-evaluate conditions.
Almost two inches of snow covered the entire course, driving range and practice putting green at Dove Mountain’s Ritz-Carlton Golf Club after all but 10 matches had started with none finishing.
“Once we got two inches of snow, even if it melted in the next hour or so, it would still take another hour-and-a-half ... to let the golf course drain where we could play,” Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition, said.
“We were just spinning our wheels, so we just decided to pull the plug on it. But I don’t think we’ll have any problem at all if the weather remains nice, finishing Sunday on time.”
Officials later said the first round would resume, weather-permitting, from 8.30am local (10.30 a.m. ET) on Thursday with the second round scheduled to start from around noon.
Ian Poulter, the 2010 champion, was 3up on fellow Briton Stephen Gallacher and summed up the feelings of most of his peers by tweeting: “Yes yes the greens are covered in snow in Arizona. Wow it was freezing out there.”
Australian Jason Day was in full command against American Zach Johnson, four birdies in the first eight holes helping him go 6up after 10.
”I’ve never played golf to the point where we’ve actually stopped for snow, which is kind of crazy,“ a smiling Day told reporters. ”But that’s just how it is. Mother Nature can just do whatever she wants.
“Once it comes to tomorrow, I kind of have to get back into that game mode ... I do have that lead, but I want to make sure that I try and get in the house.”
American Bo Van Pelt was 5up on Australian John Senden after 12 holes, defending champion Hunter Mahan was 4up on Italy’s Matteo Manassero after nine and American Matt Kuchar was 3up on Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita after 14.
Northern Ireland’s world number one Rory McIlroy, beaten by Mahan 2&1 in last year’s final, and three-times champion Tiger Woods were among those yet to start their first-round matches.
McIlroy has been drawn to play Irishman Shane Lowry in the opening round while Woods will face fellow American Charles Howell III.
It was the second time in three years that wintry weather had forced a delay in play at Dove Mountain.
Almost an inch of snow covered the course before thawing out for the start of the 2011 final between Britain’s Luke Donald and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, which was later interrupted by sleet. Donald went on to win that final 3&2.
It is the third PGA Tour event this year to be severely affected by adverse weather.
The season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii was cut to three rounds and spilled over into a rare Tuesday finish because of relentless howling winds and an entire day was wiped out by fog at last month’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Steve Keating