Sydney’s smoky haze continues to plague the Australian Open golf championship, with former winner Matt Jones claiming he’d never endured anything like it and one player even resorting to wearing a surgical mask.
Jones snared the early clubhouse lead with a first-round four-under-par 67 on Thursday before saying visibility and comfort levels were among the worst he’d endured.
“It’s awful,” Jones said. “I’m not sure what the forecast is but the smoke’s not good at all.
“It’s tough to see your golf ball when you’re out there playing, where it finishes.
Your eyes do burn up. I’ve got that cough like you’ve got something in your lungs, phlegm in your lungs or whatever, but it’s not fun.
"I hope my kids are inside in the hotel room.”
With several sporting events cancelled this week as bushfires continue to rage all over New South Wales, children, the elderly and those with heart and lung conditions are most at risk.
Health authorities have advised people to reduce outdoor activities and seek medical advice if they experience difficulties.
New Zealander Ryan Chisnall, an asthmatic, covered up with a mask as conditions deteriorated yesterday.
Golf Australia boss said Stephen Pitt promised pre-Open to have ample medical staff on site at The Australian Golf Club and they certainly had their hands full.
St John Ambulance officials reported one asthma attack and “plenty” of people complaining of sore throats, stinging eyes and wheeziness.
Tournament director Trevor Herden was hoping forecast sea breezes would help clear skies by the weekend.
“Even when I played in China, I didn’t think it was like this at all,” Jones said.
Fellow US PGA Tour star Cameron Smith, a member of Ernie Els’ International team, hoped the challenging conditions wouldn’t take too much of a toll ahead of next week’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
“It’s a bit odd, isn’t it, but what can you do?” Smith said after posting a three-under 68 to trail Japanese clubhouse leader Takumi Kanaya by three shots.
England’s world number 14 Paul Casey, the highest-ranked player in the field, finished the day on 68, three shots off the lead.
I must admit my eyes are stinging but you know I honestly feel for the people [nearer the fires], because we’re feeling it down here 100 [miles] away.
"I’m not going to complain because there’s people in a way worse position than me.”
Meanwhile Scot Grant Forrest is in a five-way tie at the top of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open leaderboard at Heritage Golf Club. Forrest carded an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys in an opening 66 to join Frenchmen Benjamin Hebert and Romain Langasque, South Africa’s Brandon Stone and Dane Rasmus Hojgaard on six under.