Snowstorm sweeps away Day 1 at WGC-Accenture

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
A rare snowstorm postponed play at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play.
February 20, 2013
Mike McAllister,

MARANA, Ariz. -- Less than four hours into Wednesday's first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, a snowstorm swept through Dove Mountain and dumped between 1-2 inches onto the course. But even though none of the 32 matches had been completed, with nine matches yet to even begin, officials still expect the tournament to be completed as scheduled.

The first round is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. local time on Thursday. The Peter Hanson-Thomas Bjorn match, the first of the 10 remaining matches yet to tee off, will start at 8:40 a.m., with 10-minute intervals for the start times of the remaining matches. That means the Rory McIlroy-Shane Lowry match will start at 9:50 a.m. The Tiger Woods-Charles Howell III match will begin at 10:10 a.m.

The plan is to conclude the first round and start the 16 second-round matches on Thursday. Then on Friday, play is scheduled to start again at 8:30 a.m. Officials are hoping to conclude both the second- and the third-round matches on Friday to get back on schedule.

"I don't think we'll have any problem at all if the weather remains nice, finishing Sunday on time," said Mark Russell, PGA TOUR Vice President of Rules and Competition.

Wednesday's snowstorm is the second in three years to impact the Accenture Match Play schedule. Two years ago, a snowstorm came through the area on Saturday night and only impacted Sunday's final round, the lightest schedule of the Match Play week. This time, every player was affected.

"I have never seen anything like that at a golf tournament," said the top-seeded McIlroy. "I've seen snow on the course when I was a kid, but nothing like that on any of the tours. It was crazy."

Russell recalled snow also fell at a regular TOUR event in Tucson during the late 1990s before this tournament became part of the World Golf Championships. Asked how bizarre Wednesday's weather ranked with other weird weather issues he has seen during his 30-plus years working on the PGA TOUR, Russell replied, "It's right there."

PGA TOUR meteoroligist Stewart Williams had snow in his forecast for Wednesday. With Wednesday morning temperatures in the upper 40s and dropping, the late-morning rain quickly turned to sleet, then snow. Some scattered snow showers remained in the forecast for Wednesday night, but snow should not be an issue the rest of the week. The fact that Tuesday's temperatures were in the 70s meant that the ground was still warm, thereby accelerating the melting process.

"It should be clear away and then we'll just be cold for a couple of days after this," Williams said.

Thursday's temperatures will start in the mid-30 degrees, which could leave some lingering snow. But temperatures will rise throughout the day, melting any remaining snow. Frost could pose problems for the start of play, but the biggest challenge facing players now will be dealing with he cold temperatures. Saturday should be the warmest day in the 60s, but Sunday could drop back to the upper 50s, with a projected high of 60. The lows each day will be in the 30s.

"Unfortunately we'll have below normal temperatures for the rest of the week," Williams said, "but at least we'll have some sun."

There was no such relief on Wednesday. After the snow fell, leaving the Dove Mountain course in a white-out, tournament officials weighed the amount of time it would time for the snow to melt, as well as giving it time for the moisture to drain. The decision to call it a day was made relatively quickly.

"We were just spinning our wheels," Russell said, "so we just decided to pull the plug on it."

Even before play was called Wednesday, players had to deal with the cold weather. Jason Day said he wore four layers of clothes. Ian Poulter said his hands were "actually losing all color." He was glad to see play called for the day, even though he was 3-up through 12 holes in his match against Stephen Gallacher.

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

Keegan Bradley, who grew up in the Northeast, may be one of the few players in the field who has experience playing in the snow. He wasn't phased by the white stuff in his match against Marcus Fraser. They managed to complete three holes in a match that's all square.

"I've played in worse," Bradley said. "This is a little worse because it was a wet snow. I've played in it and it's actually not that bad. This was pretty bad."

Besides the snow, wind was also a factor on Wednesday as it switched late in the day. At the 10th hole, Poulter had an approach shot from 104 yards. An hour later, with the sleet and snow starting to whip through the course, Justin Rose had 205 yards, forcing him to use a 3-wood on his second shot.

"I've seen hail and sleet but never where it's turned that quickly," Rose said. "It's been amazing how accurate the forecast has been. They've been talking about snow for about four days and pretty much at 11 (a.m.), the forecast time, boom -- it was down and end of the day."

The soft conditions could favor the longer hitters. Day, who is 6 up through 10 holes in his match against Zach Johnson, acknowledged that the par-5 holes are reachable for him but not for the shorter-hitting Johnson.

"I had the firepower to cover some bunkers where he couldn't, so the course was actually playing longer for him," Day said. "I think if it's softer tomorrow, it's going to play just as long or even longer for him."

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