Snow joke at World Match Play

Snowball fights took over from birdie blitzes as heavy snowfall forced play to be suspended in the first round of the Accenture Match Play in Arizona.

World No 1 Rory McIlroy and pal Shane Lowry never managed to get out of the clubhouse as two inches of snow blanketed the desert course at Dove Mountain while Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell only got as far as the first green in their desert showdown.

“The weather is officially ridiculous!” McIlroy tweeted.

Just 22 of the 32 matches got underway before heavy rain turned to sleet and eventually to snow. None of those matches finished before blizzard-like conditions forced officials to call it a day after just three and a half hours play.

Lowry was particularly disappointed not to get going having built himself up for a dream clash with the world No 1.

But McIlroy was looking on the bright side and delighted he didn’t have to endure a repeat of the 2003 Connacht Youths at Connemara where he had an 86 in driving hailstones, taking a 10 at the 18th.

McIlroy said: “It was nothing as bad as this. But I do I remember standing on the 18th tee box there and I swear I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. It was just horrendous. But there’s nothing you can do with this stuff.

“I’ve been near the snow a few times though recently. I was in Aspen and the French Alps so I’m glad I learned to ski, I might have to do it this week!”

As for yesterday’s suspension, McIlroy added: “I have never seen anything like that at a golf tournament. I’ve seen snow on the course as a kid, but nothing like that on any of the Tours. It was crazy.

“But at least they have called it early enough to let everyone get out of here and get warm again.”

Lowry said: “It’s awful, isn’t it? I was really looking forward to getting out there but this is the worst I’ve ever seen at a golf tournament.”

McDowell was facing a 25-footer for par with Harrington just four feet away when they were called in on the first.

Shrugging of a stiff neck as nothing to worry about, Harrington said: “I remember many, many a day at Rosses Point like this. Worse to be honest. Hailstones is worse. This is only snow.

“It was called today exactly when it should have been called. They waited as long as they could and called it as soon as they should have. There was no issue.”

Tournament director Mark Russell is confident the event can finish on time on Sunday, explaining: “We have a lot more leeway in this situation (64 players) than we would have in a 144-man or 156-man strokeplay competition.”

Ian Poulter was three up on Stephen Gallacher through 12 with Sergio Garcia two up with three to play against Thongchai Jaidee in the opening match.

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