Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Snow stops play in the desert

A snowstorm meant not one of the 64 players is through to the second round yet (AP)
A snowstorm meant not one of the 64 players is through to the second round yet (AP)

Heavy snow in the Arizona desert meant less than four hours' play was possible on the opening day of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Not one of the 64 players is through to the second round yet and 10 games, including those of top seeds Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and 2011 winner Luke Donald, have yet to start. It had been not only cold, but windy and then wet before the rain turned to sleet and eventually to snow.

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.

Also going well were Ian Poulter, champion three years ago, and Lee Westwood. Justin Rose held a two-hole lead over KJ Choi at the turn - but the fifth seed had been four up. Ryder Cup hero Poulter led Scotland's Stephen Gallacher by three after 12, while Westwood stood two up on Garcia's fellow Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello after five.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson had a tough time, though. He had to take a penalty drop after his opening drive and bogeyed five of the first seven holes to be three down to Thorbjorn Olesen, the Dane he pushed into second place in Abu Dhabi last month.

Bristol's Chris Wood was level with Masters 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.

Gallacher three-putted the short sixth and then conceded the eighth and 10th 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 10, while holder Hunter Mahan turned four up on young Italian Matteo Manassero.

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