Snow in Arizona delays resumption of Match Play
MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Bundled in a winter jacket in a chilly tent near the snow-covered driving range, Mark Russell was asked where the opening day of the Match Play Championship ranked among his bizarre weather experiences.
“It’s right there,” said Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of competition.
And Russell has been on the job for more than 30 years.
First-round play in the World Golf Championships event was suspended Wednesday when rain that came down sideways quickly gave way to snow from a winter storm that dumped close to 2 inches on Dove Mountain in about an hour. The temperature plunged to 33 degrees at the cactus-lined layout 2,800 feet above sea level.
“I’ve seen snow on the course when I was a kid, but nothing like that on any of the tours. It was crazy,” said top-ranked Rory McIlroy, one of 20 players in the 64-man field who never even made it to the first tee at the Ritz-Carlton Club.
Tiger Woods also was in one of the 10 matches that didn’t start. He will open against Charles Howell III, while McIlroy will face Shane Lowry.
After more snow during the night and morning temperatures around freezing, the course remained coated Thursday morning, further delaying play. The field is cut in half after each round and, with sunshine in the forecast the rest of the week, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get caught up.
“We’ve got a lot of possibilities with this small field,” Russell said.
Sergio Garcia, in the leadoff match, had just holed a 10-foot par putt to win the 15th hole and go 2 up over Thongchai Jaidee when play was suspended.
Ian Poulter’s only other tournament this year was on Maui for the Tournament of Champions, where it took four days just to get started because of high wind.
“I can’t believe it. When have we ever seen that?” he said, taking off his rain gear in front of his locker. “The two events I’ve attempted to play this year have been three days of 50 mph wind and 2 inches of snow in an hour. It’s absolutely, flippin’ unbelievable.”
What does that say for the rest of the year?
“Can’t get worse,” he said. “Just incredible. Bizarre. Have you ever seen it? Especially where we are.”
Maybe he should consider himself lucky. At least he didn’t play Torrey Pines, where fog wiped out an entire round Saturday and Woods had to wait until Monday to polish off his 75th career victory. There were frost delays in the opening rounds at Phoenix.
“I remember one year in Vegas in a collegiate tournament it was sleeting,” said Webb Simpson, who played one shot. “We all charged toboggans to our coach in the pro shop and he wasn’t too happy about it. This is crazy weather. But we’ve got a great forecast for the weekend, so hopefully, it will melt tonight.”
Poulter was cold from the start, rubbing his hands together and jumping in place to keep warm in the morning chill.
The Englishman had a 3-up lead over Stephen Gallacher through 12 holes, then left the course plotting revenge after European Ryder Cup teammate Peter Hanson hit him with a snowball.
“I’m like an elephant,” Poulter said. “I will not forget.”
In only 3½ hours of golf, there was some impressive play.
Bo Van Pelt, who took three shots to get out of a bunker early against John Senden, won six straight holes — only two of them with birdies — to build a 5-up lead through 12. Jason Day was 6 up through 10 holes against Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar was 3 up over Hiroyuki Fujita through 14, and defending champion Hunter Mahan was 4 up at the turn against Matteo Manassero.
“It’s hard to keep your hands warm,” Mahan said. “You’re feeling of everything just isn’t quite there. By the last three shots we hit, it was unbelievable, crazy.”
The best competition might have come after play ended.
Rickie Fowler wound up and fired snowballs from the parking lots. The caddies spent an hour having a snowball fight, though most of the players stayed inside.
That included Carl Pettersson, a guy who tries to see the glass half-full.
“This is one time I have the advantage of being fat,” Pettersson said.
With delays like this, he might have company.
“It seems like every rain delay — or snow delay — that we have, you just seem to sit there and eat dessert,” Day said. “And there’s a bunch of yummy chocolates in there.”
This was the second time in three years that wintry weather interrupted the Match Play Championship. Light snow covered everything but tee boxes and greens the morning of Luke Donald’s victory over Martin Kaymer in the 2011 championship match. It cleared before the match, but there was a brief delay because of sleet that turned greens white.
DIVOTS: The last time the opening round wasn’t finished was in 2005, when it never got started because of rain that put just about every hole at La Costa under water. ... The first-round losers will receive $46,000.
Stacy Lewis of US shoots 63, leads in Thailand
CHONBURI, Thailand (AP) — Stacy Lewis shot a 9-under 63 in the first round Thursday to take a three-stroke lead at the LPGA Thailand.
The American had an eagle on the par-4 third hole and added four more birdies on the front nine at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course. She had two more birdies before a bogey at No. 16.
The 2012 LPGA Tour player of the year birdied the last two holes to finish three strokes ahead of Karine Icher (66).
“I really started hitting the ball solid early on. Holed out for eagle on No. 3 and from there, I don’t know, that shot just really gave me the confidence to really start swinging at it,” said Lewis, a six-time LPGA winner, including the 2011 Kraft Nabisco major. “I think I missed two greens all day. I just had a ton of birdie putts and I even left a few out there.”
Inbee Park, Amy Yang, Catriona Matthew and Gerina Piller were four strokes behind. Top-ranked Yani Tseng was well off the pace at 3 over after a round with five bogeys.
Lewis said she left two birdie putts a half-roll short before she made an eagle on the third hole.
“I was a little frustrated going to No. 3,” she said. “I think I had about 145 to the pin and I hit an 8-iron. It landed a few feet short and all the fans’ hands went up, so I knew it went in. I guess it was just perfect.”
Icher had a bogey-free round, marking a vast improvement on her final round at the Australian Women’s Open last week in which she shot a 75 to finish tied for 55th.
“Last week I played really well, but I missed all of the putts,” Icher said. “I’m happy because I improved my putting today, and it’s a good sign for the rest of the season.”
Denver coach expects healthier Manning in 2013
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — John Fox has some bad news for the other 31 NFL teams: Peyton Manning could be even better in 2013.
The Denver coach says Thursday at the league’s annual scouting combine that with another offseason to heal and to fine-tune his comfort with Denver’s offense, the four-time MVP and reigning Comeback Player of the Year could have a more impressive second season in the Mile High City.
Fox says a year ago the Broncos were doing homework on Manning. They saw a dramatic improvement in Manning’s workouts last offseason at Duke, and then with the quarterback’s passing in the second half of the 2012 season. Manning led Denver to the AFC’s best record, 13-3.
US routed by Iran at wrestling World Cup in Tehran
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — American wrestlers lost six of seven bouts to Iranian opponents Thursday on the first day of a freestyle World Cup meet.
Defeating the U.S. wrestlers in six weight classes were: Hassan Rahimi (55 kilograms), Masoud Esmaeilpoorjouy (60kg), Mehdi Taghavi (66kg), Ehsan Lashgari (84kg), Hamed Tatari (96kg) and Komeil Ghasemi (120kg). The lone American winner was Jordan Burroughs at 74kg over Sadegh Goudarzi.
Iran also lost only one bout against Bulgaria while sweeping Japan and Georgia to top Group B.
Russia won Group A, beating Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Belarus, winning 23 of a combined 28 bouts.
The playoffs are Friday.
Simon and Tursunov reach Open 13 quarterfinals
MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov upset fourth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic 7-6 (4), 6-2 to reach the Open 13 quarterfinals on Thursday.
The 30-year-old Tursunov, a semifinalist at the tournament two years ago, saved the four break points he faced and broke serve twice.
Sixth-seeded Gilles Simon of France advanced to his third straight quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-1 win against Roberto Bautista-Agut, although Simon’s serve was again not at its best. Although he broke his Spanish opponent seven times, he conceded three breaks of his own.
Simon faces either No. 2 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, the defending champion, or countryman Michael Llodra in the quarters, while Tursunov plays Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.
Swiss ski coach Inglin out at season’s end
BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Switzerland’s men’s skiing coach Osi Inglin will lose his job at the end of the season because of the team’s poor results. Swiss Ski President Urs Lehmann says “the situation and the circumstances demand a fresh start and a new look” in a statement by the national ski federation. The Swiss men failed to win a medal at the world championships this month at Schladming, Austria. A dismal World Cup season has left 37th-ranked Carlo Janka, the 2010 overall winner, as the highest-ranked Swiss in the standings.
NFL players take back-to-school to the extreme
WASHINGTON (AP) — There are plenty of stories about NFL players going back to school to finish a degree or start a new one. Few of them go about it quite like this.
More than 40 current and former players are cramming to the extreme, attempting to earn a full MBA from George Washington University by taking a series of two-week courses over two offseasons. The group includes Shawne Merriman, Will Witherspoon, Marques Colston, Antwaan Randle El, Samari Rolle, Stephen Bowen and Derrick Dockery.
Dockery is taking the courses with his wife, Emma. He says he wants to “break down those stereotypes” about athletes who aren’t prepared for life after football. Graduation day is May 17.
5 OLYMPIANS WHO WENT TO COURT
Oscar Pistorius, facing a charge of premeditated murder in the Valentine’s Day slaying of his girlfriend, is one of several OIympians who found themselves in a courtroom for various accusations. Here are some the most famous:
MARION JONES - One of track and field’s biggest stars at the 2000 Olympics, she won three gold medals and two bronzes in Sydney. Eight years later, Jones was serving time in a federal prison in Texas. The former world’s fastest woman was forced to return the medals to the International Olympic Committee after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about taking performance-enhancing drugs and her involvement in a check fraud scam. Jones served a six-month sentence from March-September 2008.
TIM MONTGOMERY - In 2002, Montgomery was the world’s fastest man, dating Marion Jones and was an Olympic gold medalist with the United States 4x100-meter relay team at the 2000 Sydney Games. The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal exposed his doping and subsequently led to his 9.78 seconds record time being dropped from the books. Montgomery was later sentenced to almost 10 years jail time for his part in a $5 million check-fraud conspiracy — which also ensnared Jones and his former coach Steve Riddick, a relay gold medalist at the 1976 Montreal Games — and a conviction for dealing heroin in Virginia.
TONYA HARDING - Harding competed for the U.S. in figure skating at the 1994 Winter Olympics while under suspicion following an assault on her teammate and medal rival Nancy Kerrigan weeks before the games in Lillehammer, Norway. Harding eventually was placed on probation after pleading guilty to helping cover up a conspiracy, involving her former husband, tied to an assault on Kerrigan before the national championships. At the Olympics, Kerrigan won silver after recovering from her injuries; Harding finished eighth and was soon banned from the sport.
BRUCE KIMBALL - At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Kimball won a diving silver for the U.S. in the 10-meter platform event. Four years later, he was preparing for the national trials before the Seoul Olympics when he drove drunk at high speed into a group of partying teenagers in Hillsborough County, Fla., killing two. Kimball, who competed at the trials and failed to qualify, pleaded guilty to two charges of drunken driving-manslaughter and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. He was released in November 1993 after serving nearly five.
GUY DRUT - Being an Olympic gold medalist eventually earned Drut a presidential pardon after the former French sports minister was found guilty in a political corruption case. Drut, a 110-meter hurdler, won silver in 1972 at Munich, then added gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. In 2005, a Paris court imposed a suspended sentence of 15 months on Drut for taking money from fictitious jobs linked to public construction contracts from 1990-92. He was pardoned by President Jacques Chirac because of his distinguished service to French sport. The International Olympic Committee reprimanded him for conduct that “seriously tarnished the reputation of the Olympic Movement.”