Beem and Goosen plough on despite poor weather

The BellSouth Classic in Atlanta was suspended after little more than three hours today – by hail, sleet and even snow after two complete days had already been lost to rain.

The BellSouth Classic in Atlanta was suspended after little more than three hours today – by hail, sleet and even snow after two complete days had already been lost to rain.

So much for it being called the final warm-up event for next week’s Masters.

American Rich Beem, having decided not to join Luke Donald, Ian Woosnam and three more Augusta-bound players who pulled out of the event before the start, resorted to tying a pair of socks around his head to keep his ears warm.

And even when conditions improved enough for the tournament to resume the cold wind was so strong that US Open champion Retief Goosen’s putt for birdie on the 15th green stopped a foot from the hole and then was blown a further nine feet away.

Both are determined to see the event through to its natural conclusion, although that now looks like being only three rounds rather than four because the opening 18 holes were not going to be completed before nightfall today.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson, for instance, did not tee off until approaching 2.30pm and there were still eight groups behind him.

Donald had pulled out on Thursday citing a sore shoulder and when the second day was lost as well European Ryder Cup captain Woosnam, Americans Chris DiMarco and Steve Flesch and Australian Stuart Appleby joined him in heading to Augusta.

That still left 20 Masters players in the field – and Beem and Goosen both thought t could work in their favour in the end.

Beem, round in a fine two-under-par 70 to be only one behind early leader JL Lewis, said: “I don’t think we’re going to play 72 holes now.

“I was worried about 36 on Monday and did think about pulling out as well, but playing in these conditions is not bad preparation for next week because you know it’s going to be tough at Augusta.

“I’m worn out right now, though. I’ve been up at 5am the last three mornings and then we get that snowstorm this morning.”

After handing in a level-par 72 Goosen commented: “I was thinking about whether to play too, but as I’m here now I might as well keep playing.

“I don’t think 36 on Monday is going to happen unless they make a very small cut. It could be good practice – I’ve played in weather like this at Augusta and there’s a pretty good chance it will be like this there as well.”

Of the Europeans left in, Swede Mathias Gronberg – not in the Masters – was going best, joint second at two under. But that was after only four holes, the first of them seeing him make a 14-foot eagle putt on the long 10th.

Mickelson parred the same hole, while Thomas Levet and Jose Maria Olazabal, who are also in the first Major of the season, were one under after 15 and two holes respectively.

Miguel Angel Jimenez was one over after 17, Brian Davis two over at the same point and Phillip Price three over after 15. Davis and Price did not qualify for Augusta.

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