More than a quarter of the field in next week’s Masters had their build-up further disrupted today when the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta was washed out for the second day running.
And, with officials announcing there would now be a 36-hole final day on Monday, Americans Chris DiMarco and Steve Flesch and Australia’s Stuart Appleby decided to follow England’s Luke Donald out of the event.
Donald withdrew on Thursday citing a shoulder problem, but DiMarco, Flesch and Appleby could both be fined if their only reason is that they want to be at Augusta National rather than the saturated Sugarloaf course at the start of next week.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson, former winners Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal and US Open champion Retief Goosen are among the 21 Augusta-bound players left in, although further withdrawals will come as no surprise.
Much though Olazabal would like to get to the Masters early he will go along with the Monday marathon.
“I’m playing on invitations this season, so it would not be the right thing for me to pull out because of next week,” said the 1994 and 1999 Masters champion, who lost his exempt status on the US Tour last year.
“It’s not the ideal preparation for Augusta, but it’s harder for those who have not played in many Masters.
“I’ll play 18 holes on Tuesday and then take things a bit easier on Wednesday so that I don’t tire myself out. Playing the course is not as important as getting the pace of the greens – that’s absolutely crucial.
“You can do a lot of that work on the practice green and chipping area because they keep those at exactly the same speed.”
Slugger White, tournament director in Atlanta, commented: “The players are obliged to the BellSouth Classic. They have committed and are expected to play here.”
With no golf being played for two days running, something which has not happened on the US Tour since the 1998 Pebble Beach Pro-am, players were left searching for things to do.
Olazabal spent some of the time watching himself. A re-run of the 1992 Open at Muirfield, where he finished in third place two shots behind Nick Faldo, was among the programmes shown on television while there was no live action.
“That was the closest I’ve ever come to winning – it was good to see it again,” said the Spaniard during one of the many hours he has now spent in his hotel room. “And we all looked so young!”
Olazabal, now 39, finished 142nd on the 2004 US Tour and so had to write to sponsors seeking a chance to play.
Brian Davis and Phillip Price, 44th and 173rd respectively on the money list, will be unconcerned by a Monday finish. They are not in the field for the Masters.