Golf’s World Match Play Championship Interrupted by Arizona Snow

First-round matches will resume today at the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship, one day after snow blanketed the desert course in Marana, Arizona, and forced organizers to halt play.

Greens, fairways and cacti at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain were covered by 1 to 1 1/2 inches of snow when play was stopped with 22 of the 32 opening-round matches under way.

“I’ve never actually played golf to the point where we’ve stopped for snow,” Jason Day of Australia said at a news conference. “It’s a little crazy for it to snow in the desert, but Mother Nature can just do whatever she wants.”

Snow had interrupted U.S. PGA Tour events twice before in the past eight years -- at the 2011 WGC Match Play Championship outside Tucson and at the 2005 Bellsouth Classic near Atlanta.

No matches were finished yesterday, though Sergio Garcia of Spain will have a 12-foot birdie putt to close out Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand when play resumes. Garcia has a 2-up lead through 15 holes, meaning he’s won two more than his opponent, and could take an unbeatable advantage by winning the 16th hole.

The tournament features 64 of the top 66 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and a $1.5 million top prize.

Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Rickie Fowler were among the players to post photos of the snow-covered course and practice areas while play was delayed yesterday, and the PGA Tour had a shot of several caddies having a snowball fight on its official Twitter page.

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy is the top overall seed and had yet to start his match against Ireland’s Shane Lowry. Second-seeded Tiger Woods, a three-time winner of the event, will face fellow American Charles Howell III.

McIlroy, Woods, Luke Donald and Louis Oosthuizen are No. 1 seeds in the four 16-player brackets. England’s Donald will face Germany’s Marcel Siem in his opening match and South Africa’s Oosthuizen takes on Scotland’s Richie Ramsay.

Defending champion Hunter Mahan of the U.S. is 4-up through nine holes against Matteo Manassero of Italy.

Day had the largest lead when play was suspended, 6-up through 10 holes in his match against American Zach Johnson. Bo Van Pelt of the U.S. is 5-up in his match against John Senden after 12 holes.

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