Snowballs replace golf balls in bizarre day in the desert

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
A snowman on the golf course? Wednesday was that surreal at Dove Mountain.
February 20, 2013

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

MARANA, Ariz. -- Snowball fights waged outside the sprawling southwestern ranch-style clubhouse. Caddies making snow angels. A three-foot snowman standing sentry in the high Sonoran desert.

Just another day at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship ... not.

Wednesday's first round of the elite global competition was halted three hours and 42 minutes after it began by stinging snow that blew sideways and eventually turned into big white flakes that blanketed the ground. Nearly two inches had accumulated by the time tournament officials made the decision to send everyone back to hot showers and resume play on Wednesday.

"I don't think I have (ever seen anything like this) to be honest," Ian Poulter said. "It's absolutely remarkable to think one minute we're playing golf, albeit it's a little cool, and then within a space of 25 minutes, it turns from playable to cold drizzle to sleet and to snow. And within an hour and a half of all that starting, you've got two inches of snow plus on the ground. It's just bizarre."

Keegan Bradley, on the other hand, grew up in Vermont so seeing snow on the golf course, even playing a few holes in the white stuff, isn't unusual for him.

Wednesday's snow was different, though.

"I've played in this a million times, but not for a long time," Bradley said. "... This is a little worse because it was a wet snow."

Poulter, who now makes his home in Orlando, said he hasn't seen snow in several years -- "It feels very Christmasy all of a sudden," the Englishman said. The 2012 Accenture Match Play Championship winner was among those under snowball assault, and Peter Hanson had best be on his guard.

"I'm like an elephant; I will not forget," said Poulter, who is 3 up through 12 holes in his match with Stephen Gallacher, who returns on Thursday to a 15-footer to possibly reduce the deficit. "... Revenge is sweet."

Poulter, one of the game's great match players, said it quickly became a struggle to maintain any semblence of concentration on Wednesday.

"It's 20 minutes and you're just desperate to get off the golf course to be quite frank," Poulter said. "Your hands are actually losing all color. They're pretty much going white as the snow starts to come down, and you're desperate to get off the course.

"It's hard enough to play in some wind and some rain, but when it gets that cold and starts sleeting and snowing, it's just very silly."

Jason Day returns to his match with Zach Johnson leading 6 up and playing the 11th hole. He said he noticed the rain in the distance when the two were playing the seventh hole and by the time the match had reached No. 11 the wet stuff had arrived.

"I was 6 up and I had just sliced my ball into the junk, and I was just hoping that it was going to snow soon because I was going to start leaking oil there for a little bit," Day recalled. "But I got it back out in the fairway for my second shot, and I've got about 200 yards, and then it started coming down with sleet.

"You had to put the umbrella up because it started hurting once it hit your face. After that, then it just started snowing and then just didn't stop, and now we have at least two inches on the ground. Kind of happy that it stopped."

The dramatic turn in the weather didn't surprise anyone. Day said had four layers of clothing on at the start of the day -- two pairs of pants and socks, as well as a rain suit and a beanie. With temperatures expeced to rise into the 50s on Thursday he might be able to get by with two or three but the first round was a different animal.

"G-Mac said there's some skis and ski boots at the front if we wanted to go skiing down these slopes, which is kind of funny," Day said.

Once the players were safely in the clubhouse there were photos to tweet and ample food to consume.

"It seems like every rain delay or snow delay that we have, you just seem to sit there and eat dessert, and there's a bunch of yummy chocolates in there and you just sit there and eat chocolates and drink a lot of Coca-Cola," Day said.

Webb Simpson and David Lynn weren't far away from the warm walls of the clubhouse when the horn blew after just hitting their tee shots. Simpson, the reigning U.S. Open champion, said he'd never seen conditions like Wednesday's weather since turning pro.

"I remember one year in Vegas in a collegiate tournament it was sleeting," the former Wake Forest All-American said. "We all charged toboggans to our coach in the pro shop, and he wasn't happy about it.

"You know what, this is crazy weather, but we've got a great forecast for the weekend. So hopefully it will melt tonight."

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