THE much anticipated matchplay clash between Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry was postponed by heavy snow in Arizona yesterday.
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.
McIlroy said: “this is unbelievable. Everyone knows it snowed here a couple of years ago but it was nothing like this.”
“There are three or four inches on the putting green. It’s ridiculous and it doesn’t look like we’ll have any more play.”
Graeme McDowell was another frustrated spectator as he did not get the opportunity to tee off against Padraig Harrington before play was suspended for the day.
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”.
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 KJ Choi at the turn - but the fifth seed had been four up.
Ryder Cup hero Poulter led Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher - winner of the 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.
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, who won his first European Tour title a week later in Qatar, 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.
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 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.
The biggest lead was held by Australian Jason Day, who was six up on Ryder Cup player Zach Johnson after 10, while holder Hunter Mahan turned four up on Matteo Manassero.