A sandstorm whipped up by the swirling Shamal wind curtailed the first round of the 2003 Qatar Masters to just three and a half hours of play at Doha Golf Club. Play was suspended at 9.52am local time with the early starters having completed 13 holes of their opening round.
Half of the 150-strong field managed to start the tournament and will return at 6.30am on Friday morning to complete their first 18 holes. The scene at Doha’s splendid course was reminiscent to a dense fog as the high winds created a desert sandstorm.
However once visibility had cleared sufficiently, the strength of the winds, gusting to 37 miles per hour, proved troublesome, causing the ball to move on the greens and preventing any further play.
David Williams, Acting Tournament Director, explained: "The weather deteriorated very quickly this morning and visibility was down to 50 yards in places.
"Once visibility improved the wind had gained strength to the extent that the ball was moving on the majority of greens and there was no way we could play whatsoever."
When play was called off, South Africa’s James Kingston was at the top of the leaderboard at three under par after 13 holes. Playing in the first group out on the course Kingston made four birdies and dropped a shot at the seventh.
Four players were tied on two under par – Fredrik Andersson of Sweden, England’s Phil Golding, Swede Henrik Stenson and Belgium’s Nicolas Vanhootegem.
Ian Woosnam, the 1991 Masters Tournament winner, started at the tenth hole and began with an eagle three, but dropped three shots to stand one over par after 1. His playing partners,former champions, Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe and Holland’s Rolf Muntz, were also over par for the day.
Muntz, the 2000 champion in windy – but less grueling – conditions was two over while his successor, Johnstone, stood at one over.
The second tier of 75 players will begin at 8am on Friday morning and it is hoped that approximately half of the field - weather permitting - can complete their second rounds with the remainder playing their second round on Saturday.