First round rain delayed; recommence on Friday

Durban Country ClubDURBAN (16 December 2010) – Denis Hutchinson hit the ceremonial drive opening the 100th South African Open in what he described as “swinging in the rain” on Thursday, and a little over two hours later he was still one of the few to have played any golf at this year’s championship.

The first round of the championship was postponed until Friday because of a waterlogged course at Durban Country Club.

Heavy rain overnight and into the morning forced the suspension of the round at 8:53am. And with the rain not letting up, tournament director Gary Todd finally called off any further play at 2:30pm, with the round scheduled to resume on Friday.

Todd also confirmed the possibility of reducing the championship to 54 holes.

“The key is to get 36 holes in because that constitutes a tournament,” Todd said. “So we’re finishing round one on Friday and then starting round two on Saturday. We’ll get round two done, then make a cut and see what the weather looks like. We’ll either have a 36-hole final round with a limited field, or a 54-hole tournament with a full cut to 65 and ties.”

But with more rain predicted for the weekend, tournament staff have their work cut out for them.

“Friday is supposed to be dry and Saturday morning as well. But our forecaster says Saturday evening and Sunday morning we could have a few more showers.

“Today we had in excess of three inches of rain. That’s a massive amount. Number four green is taking a lot of strain. The 18th green is in trouble as well, and the ninth fairway is like a river. So we need to get the maximum drainage of the course that we can.

“That’s why we’re starting at 8:30 on Friday and not the usual 6:30 to give the greenkeeper and his staff an extra two hours to work on the golf course before we resume.”

Todd has ruled out the option of a Monday finish.

“Logistically it’s very difficult, especially for the European Tour players, to find flights home this close to Christmas. We need to weigh that up as well. If we get to a situation where only three or four matches need to finish on a Monday morning, then that will be fine and we’ll definitely go into the Monday. But I think logistically we’ll do our best to finish on Sunday regardless.”

In the just over two-and-a-half hours of play on Thursday, Retief Goosen birdied two of his first four holes to take the early lead with Martin Maritz, Divan van den Heever, David Drysdale and Thorbjorn Olesen on two under par, and before the siren sounded for the suspension of the round.

British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is at one under after six holes, while defending champion Richie Ramsay is at one over through four holes.

Ernie Els and Tim Clark were amongst the many who did not even tee off.

For live scoring from 08h30 on Friday – click here

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