There's little swinging in Augusta rain

DiMarco, Donald, Howell share lead during weather-delayed second round

April 09, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The folks at Augusta National are always looking for new traditions to add to the list of longstanding customs at their annual golf tournament, the Masters. They seem to have found one they probably could do without.

The washout.

Two years after torrential rains wiped out the opening round in its entirety, the threat of dangerous weather canceled nearly all of the second round of the 69th Masters yesterday. Play was suspended at 12:40 p.m. and called for the day at 4 p.m.

It followed a 5 1/2 -hour delay in Thursday's opening round, in which only 24 players finished all 18 holes. The first round was completed yesterday morning, and no one had played more than nine holes in the second round.

Three players - first-round leader Chris DiMarco, along with Englishmen Luke Donald and David Howell - were at 5-under par. Howell, who began the round at even par, had played eight holes on the back nine. Donald, who started at 4-under, had played two holes on the front and DiMarco had parred the opening hole.

Vijay Singh, the world's No. 1-ranked player, finished with a 4-under 68 in the opening round, but he had yet to tee off in the second.

Australians Mark Hensby and Stuart Appleby were at 3-under, with Hensby having played seven holes and Appleby yet to tee off. Defending champion Phil Mickelson finished an opening round of 2-under 70 and was tied with Kirk Triplett, who got there by making three birdies and an eagle in his first eight holes of the second round.

"I'm playing well, so I can deal with all the stops in play," said DiMarco, who also led after each of the first two rounds here in 2001. "With the guys who are 2- or 3-over it's probably much harder. It's hard to [stop play] three or four times in a round."

DiMarco and his fellow PGA Tour pros are getting accustomed to rounds being postponed.

It's the fourth straight week that a PGA Tour event has been plagued by bad weather; in the previous two, at the BellSouth Classic and The Players Championship, it took until Monday to finish the tournament. It also was the ninth time in 15 weeks that a PGA Tour event had a round postponed by weather problems.

"It's tough for the guys who are playing well, because this is a game of momentum," said Nick Price, who shot 78 in the first round. " ... It's going to be a struggle to get this event done by Sunday now. It's going to make for four very long days for everyone."

It's already been two long days for many, including former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (3-over through 27 holes), former PGA champion and perennial Masters contender Davis Love III (5-over through 20) and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain (6-over through 19).

Others who have some catching up to do include former champion Mike Weir of Canada, (2-over through 20 holes) three-time Masters champion and eight-time major champion Tiger Woods (2-over through 19 holes) and three-time major champion Ernie Els of South Africa (75).

The tournament itself has a lot of catching up considering how little golf was played the past two days.

Will Nicholson, the chairman of the competition committee, said that play would resume at 8:30 a.m. today, weather permitting. Another concern is the playability of the course. Nicholson said that the reason that the completion of the first round didn't begin until 9:45 a.m. yesterday was that the fairways couldn't be mowed until then because the course was too wet.

Several players were skeptical, including DiMarco.

"Obviously, it was a TV thing," DiMarco said, implying that club officials wanted to have as much of the tournament televised during its scheduled 3 1/2 -hour time slot yesterday afternoon and early evening. "It's all about TV. It wasn't that terrible [weather] in the morning. What are you going to do?"

Said former champion Larry Mize: "I did wonder why we didn't play [earlier in the day]. Why would they have us wait until 9:45 to start? If they tell you, let me know."

Nicholson said that play was suspended first, and later called for the day, because of the proximity of the lightning to Augusta, with some storm cells as close at five miles. Shortly after play was called, loud crackles of thunder were heard in the vicinity of the club.

Nicholson remains cautiously optimistic that the tournament can be finished by tomorrow night and would not have a Monday - or later - conclusion.

"That's our intent," he said. "As I said the other day, under any circumstances, the winner will play 72 holes."

Asked to convey his sense of disappointment or frustration, Nicholson said, "Well, I'd like to convey it, but there are ladies in the room."

Rainy rounds

Rain delays and suspensions on the 2005 PGA Tour:

Mercedes Championship, Kapalua, Hawaii: Start of final round delayed about four hours by threatening weather.

Buick Invitational, San Diego: Play in last three rounds suspended by fog.

FBR Open, Scottsdale, Ariz.: First round delayed by severe winds.

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