(Reuters) - The 2013 PGA Tour finally got under way for just over an hour at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Sunday before play was suspended due to strong gusting winds.
With balls being blown off greens and also off players’ tees, officials had no option but to halt the already long-delayed first round as the prospect of a Tuesday finish loomed larger at the Kapalua Resort.
”You just can’t play in this,“ Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition, told reporters. ”You can hardly walk in it, much less play golf.
“We were on the edge starting out at 11:10 and I think probably for 30-40 minutes we were still on the edge. And then all of a sudden we get these last gusts of up to 48 miles per hour and we just couldn’t keep balls on the green.”
Rickie Fowler struck the first shot in the re-scheduled opening round when he teed off at the par-four first, though the entire 30-man field was prepared for the action to be halted as high winds continued to batter the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Fellow American Matt Kuchar, who hit the first shot on the 10th hole, had a lengthy conversation with rules officials after his ball was blown off his tee before he eventually set off.
Jason Dufner was the early leader at one under after five holes with compatriots Fowler and Kuchar (also after five holes) among a group of 12 players knotted at level par when play was suspended.
Scott Stallings was not quick enough to mark a one-foot putt at the 11th before his ball was blown seven feet away and fellow American Ben Curtis watched in shock as his ball, after settling, was blown off the same green.
Plans to play 36 holes on Sunday were dashed when the re-start of the opening round was pushed back four hours as winds continued to gust well above 40mph across the Plantation Course.
The PGA Tour’s season-opening event has already been cut to 54 holes because of unplayable conditions over the first two days and officials have not ruled out a possible Tuesday finish.
”Tuesday is not out of the realm as yet,“ said White. ”Fifty-four holes is what we are trying to finish.
“I think you can determine a champion with 54 holes with no problem whatsoever; 36, I don’t think so.”
While 24 players in the elite, winners-only field of 30 were able to tee off on Friday before the first-round scores were wiped out, not a single shot was struck on Saturday because of unplayable conditions.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue