Snow halts opening round at Match Play
By DOUG FERGUSON
MARANA, Arizona (AP) The opening round of the Match Play Championship was suspended on Wednesday when a cold rain that came down sideways quickly gave way to snow from a winter storm.
Almost 2 inches (5 centimeters) was dumped on Dove Mountain in just over an hour.
"I've never actually played golf to the point where we've actually stopped for snow, which is kind of crazy," said Jason Day of Australia, who was 6 up through 10 holes over Zach Johnson. "A little crazy for it to snow in the desert, as well. But that's just how it is. Mother Nature can do whatever she wants."
Ten matches had not even started when players were called off the course as slush was starting to form on the greens. Two hours later, The Ritz-Carlton Club was a blanket of snow as temperatures dipped as low as 33 degrees (zero C). The rest of the day was called off.
"I've seen snow on the course when I was a kid, but nothing like that on any of the tours," said Rory McIlroy, who along with Tiger Woods was among those 10 matches that never had to hit a shot.
Sergio Garcia, in the leadoff match, had just holed a 10-foot par putt to win the 15th hole and go 2 up over Thongchai Jaidee when play was suspended.
The U.S. PGA Tour was meeting with television officials to sort out when to start and how to get back on schedule. The 64-man field is cut in half after each round, and with sunshine in the forecast the rest of the week, it should not be difficult to get caught up.
So much for a tour that follows the sun.
Ian Poulter's only other tournament this year was in Hawaii for the Tournament of Champions, where it took four days just to get started because of high wind, and then the 54-hole event was over 29 hours after it started.
And now this.
"I can't believe it. When have we ever seen that?" he said, taking off his rain gear in front of his locker. "The two events I've attempted to play this year have been three days of 50 mph wind and 2 inches of snow in an hour. It's absolutely, flippin' unbelievable."
Maybe he should consider himself lucky. At least he didn't play Torrey Pines, where fog wiped out an entire round on Saturday and Woods had to wait until Monday afternoon to polish off his 75th career win. There were frost delays in the opening rounds of Phoenix this month.
Poulter was cold from the start, rubbing his hands together in the morning chill of high desert - about 2,800 feet (850 meters) above sea level - and he jumped in place to keep warm. He built a 3-up lead over Stephen Gallacher through 12 holes.
In only 3 1/2 hours of golf, there was some impressive play.
Bo Van Pelt, who took three shots to get out of a bunker early in his match against John Senden, won six straight holes - only two of them with birdies - to build a 5-up lead through 12. Matt Kuchar was 3 up over Hiroyuki Fujita through 14 holes, while defending champion Hunter Mahan was 4 up at the turn over Matteo Manassero.
This was the second time in three years that wintry weather interrupted the Match Play Championship. A light snow covered everything but tee boxes and greens the morning of the final in 2011 between Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer. It cleared before their match, but then there was a brief delay because of sleet that turned greens white.
The last time the opening round was not finished was in 2005, when it never got started because of rain that put just about every hole at La Costa under water.
Updated February 20, 2013
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