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Snow halts World Match Play first round

Golf balls lie in the snow on the practice putting green as play was suspended, on February 20, 2013
Golf balls lie in the snow on the practice putting green as play was suspended in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play on February 20, 2013. Rory McIlroy said he had never seen anything like it.

Rory McIlroy has golfed in driving rain and umbrella-snapping winds, but the world number one had never seen a tournament round postponed because of a snowstorm.

Snow halted the opening round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship before McIlroy and Tiger Woods could tee off and before any matchup was completed.

Play was suspended in the late morning and by the time play was called for the day, about four centimetres (1.6 inches) had accumulated on the ground.

"I have never seen anything like that at a golf tournament," said the Northern Irishman. "I've seen snow on the course when I was a kid, but nothing like that on any of the tours. It was crazy."

Snow covers the first hole tee and the grandstands as play was suspended, on February 20, 2013
Snow covers the first hole tee and the grandstands as play was suspended at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, on February 20, 2013.

Mark Russell, the PGA Tour's vice president of rules and competition, remembered seeing snow at a PGA Tour event in nearby Tucson, Arizona during the late 1990s before this tournament became part of the World Golf Championships.

"We got this freak snow storm," Russell said. "It was predicted, though. We just couldn't play."

Play was set to resume on Thursday with Spain's Sergio Garcia the nearest to victory, leading Thongchai Jaidee 2-up and looking at a 12-foot birdie putt at the 15th hole, while the Thai player is 96 feet from the cup.

Only 10 of the 64 first-round matches had not teed off when the snowstorm struck at the Dove Mountain course, but those matches included World No. 1 McIlroy going against Irishman Steve Lowry.

Australia's Jason Day, who would be enjoying warm summer temperatures if he were back home in Brisbane, said this was a first for him.

"This is crazy. I never played golf where you had to stop because of snow," Day said.

Officials said the second-round matches will also start on Thursday, and completed Friday. The third-round matches will follow on Friday, and if those two rounds are completed at the time, the tournament will be back on schedule.

Organizers were optimistic about their 8:30 am (15:30 GMT) start time Thursday.

Snow halted the opening round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship on February 20, 2013
Snow halted the opening round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship on February 20, 2013, before Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods could tee off and before any matchup was completed.

There was still snow on the course as the sun was setting Wednesday and cool temperatures were expected to keep it there overnight. Weather forecasters were also predicting a second storm to hit the area.

Woods, who was set to open against US compatriot and friend Charlie Howell, and England's Luke Donald, a top seed set to face Marcel Siem of Germany, also were awaiting their starts when the storm struck to stop play for the day.

Garcia, playing in the bracket whose top seed is South African Louis Oosthuizen, has never trailed against Thongchai, who stumbled with a bogey at the par-five second and another at the 15th to fall two-down.

American Matt Kuchar, who could face Garcia in round two, was three-up on Hiroyuki Fujita after 14 holes, having won three holes in a row starting at the ninth to seize command.

That bracket also saw England's Justin Rose two-up on South Korean KJ Choi after nine holes, helping by a 54-foot birdie putt to win the opening holes that launched him to four-up through five holes before Choi rallied.

England's Ian Poulter was three-up through 12 on Scotsman Stephen Gallacher and Day was six-up after 10 on American Zach Johnson.

Defending champion Hunter Mahan was four-up on Italy's Matteo Manassero after nine holes, never trailing after the European found the desert right off the first tee and struggled from there.

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