Snow forces early finish in Arizona

20/02/2013 21:13:00
Snow covers a signage banner   (Getty Images)
Snow covers a signage banner (Getty Images)
Heavy snow in the Arizona desert meant less than four hours' play was possible on the opening day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Not one of the 64 players is through to the second round yet and ten games, including those of top seeds Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and 2011 winner Luke Donald, have yet to start.

Despite freezing temperatures Sergio Garcia was able to get the tournament off on time at 7.25am, but he was on the 16th green two up against Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee when the action was called off.

Garcia was possibly one putt from victory, but like everybody else was just happy to retreat to the warmth of the clubhouse.

It had been not only cold, but windy and then wet before the rain turned to sleet and eventually to snow.

Also going well were Ian Poulter, champion three years ago, and Lee Westwood. Justin Rose held a two hole lead over K J Choi at the turn - but the fifth seed had been four up.

Ryder Cup hero Poulter led Scotland's Stephen Gallacher - winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on his last start three weeks ago - by three after 12, while Westwood stood two up on Garcia's fellow Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello after five.

Dane Thorbjørn Olesen was getting the better of his battle of the debutants with Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who had to take a penalty drop after his opening drive and bogeyed five of the first seven holes to be three down to the player he pushed into second place in Abu Dhabi last month.

England's Chris Wood, who won his first European Tour title a week later in Qatar, was level with Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson after six, while Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington - one of two all-Irish clashes with McIlroy waiting to play Shane Lowry - had only just teed off when they were called in.

The snow should have cleared by the morning, but there is the possibility of frost that could further delay things.

The tournament does have the ability to make up a lot of lost time, however, with the likeliest scenario now being that the third round and quarter-finals will both be staged on Saturday.

Gallacher three-putted the short sixth and then conceded the eighth and tenth before Poulter salvaged an unlikely half on the par five 11th after his carved second shot was perilously close to going out of bounds.

Rose kicked off with a birdie putt of nearly 55 feet and Choi bogeyed three of the next four, but birdie putts at the sixth and ninth halved the deficit.

Westwood produced arguably the shot of the day, drilling an iron through the wind to five feet at the short third, and Cabrera Bello three-putted the next to lose further ground.

Wood needed only a bogey six at the second to draw first blood, but Watson's pars on the third and fifth were good enough to take him ahead, only for the American left-hander to drop another stroke at the next.

The biggest lead was held by Australian Jason Day, who was six up on American Ryder Cup player Zach Johnson after ten, while holder Hunter Mahan turned four up on young Italian Matteo Manassero.

McIlroy said on Twitter: "This weather is officially ridiculous", while Poulter joked: "What's the problem? Let's play.

"The caddies have officially just had a snowball fight. Never seen anything like it."

He then posted a picture of "at least two inches of snow" on his courtesy car.

McDowell stated: "Holy coldness - I've only ever played in an event with conditions like this once."

The event in question was the West of Ireland Championship in "about 1998".

Play will resume at 08:30 am on Thursday.