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Players don masks as 'toxic smog' delays Asian Tour event

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Opening-round play at the Asian Tour's Panasonic Open in India was delayed for five hours because of "toxic smog," leading some players to wear anti-pollution masks once play began.

Areas in and around the Indian capital of New Delhi have been affected in recent days by the smog, which builds each winter as a byproduct of traffic fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from agricultural fires. Some schools have been closed as a result, and officials are rationing the amount of cars that can be on the road at a given time based on vehicle registration numbers.

According to an AFP report, tournament organizers opted to delay play at Classic Golf and Country Club because of "poor visibility and weather conditions," and initially considered shortening the event.

Once play began, multiple players opted to wear face masks to protect themselves from deadly PM2.5 particles, which can enter the lungs and bloodstream and whose levels have reportedly reached more than 20 times the safe limit set by the World Health Organization.

One of those players was Thailand's Itthipat Buranatanyarat, who took a two-shot lead after shooting an 8-under 64.

"I just needed to wear a mask, and apart from that it was business as usual," he told reporters. "I managed to play well despite everything and I'm very proud of myself."