Rain Postpones First Round of Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- The first round of the Masters was called off Thursday because of a water-logged course and the threat of thunderstorms. Tiger Woods' quest for a third straight green jacket is now set to begin Friday at Augusta National Golf Club.
 
Officials hope to get in 36 holes Friday, though more rain was expected in the morning.
 
It was the first time since 1939 that the opening round was postponed because of rain.
 
Heavy showers have fallen on Augusta since Sunday. The course didn't open for practice Monday, and the popular par-3 contest was rained out Wednesday.
 
The club did its best to get the first round in. The scheduled 8:10 AM EDT start time was pushed back 30 minutes in an attempt to get the course in shape.
 
Weather WarningEarly Thursday, the start time was moved back again to 11 AM. About 10 minutes before play was to begin, officials announced that no golf would be played.
 
It was ugly out there - the course was too wet to play, more thunderstorms were expected and the temperature wasn't expected to crack 50 degrees
 
After the storm front moves through, warm, sunny days are expected this weekend.
 
But it figures to be a grueling tournament, and the best-conditioned players will certainly have an advantage on a 36-hole day.
 
'We're going to play about 15,000 yards and about 10,000 of it is going to be wet,' Rocco Mediate. 'Fitness is a good thing.'
 
Scott Hoch was strolling to the driving range when the announcement came.
 
'My approach stays the same, whether it's a regular PGA Tour, the Masters or the British Open. I just go out and play,' Hoch said. 'Thirty-six holes doesn't bother me. I'm old, but I'm in good shape.
 
Now, instead of working on his short game, Hoch had to decide what movie to see with his wife.
 
'I'm sure there are some things she wants to see,' He said. 'There's some things I want to see, too. I usually just have to work with her on that.'
 
It was the first time an entire round was postponed since 1983, when rain washed out Friday's play.
 
Rain now joins the list of other themes running concurrently at this year's Masters - Woods' pursuit of a third straight victory and Martha Burk's protest against the club's all-male membership.
 
The sun disappeared Sunday morning, replaced by persistent rain. The golf course was closed on Monday, and practice was limited the next two days.
 
Many fans were coated with mud on their way out of the course. Some cars struggled to escape the gooey parking lots.
 
The driving range remained open even after play was called. Players would hit a shot, then duck back under their umbrellas in a futile attempt to stay dry.
 
'If I can, I want to practice a little, hit a few balls, get used to the greens and go from there,' two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer said.
 
With all the rain, Augusta National figures to play longer than ever - another advantage for Woods in his pursuit of history.
 
'It favors someone who is hitting the ball high and long and straight,' Woods said Wednesday. 'You've got to keep the ball in the fairway, but you've got to get it out there.'
 
The club already has said players won't be able to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairway. Mud on the ball makes it difficult to control where it's going, and control is everything at Augusta.
 
'Let's face it,' said Ernie Els, a four-time winner this year and expected to be one of the top contenders. 'Tiger's going to be there.'
 
Related Links:
  • Augusta, Ga., Weather
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     

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