Strong winds brought day two to a premature halt at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy today (Friday) as 40mph gales battered the field at Doha Golf Club and reduced the event to a 54-hole tournament.
Just 163 minutes of golf had been played when European Tour officials called in the players who had taken to the course, including overnight leader Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano who may have breathed a sigh of relief after dropping two shots on his opening seven holes to fall back to joint second place.
“The sponsors and television were insistent that they want the tournament to end on Sunday night so taking that into account and the fact that we don’t have enough daylight to do 36 holes in a day, the event has been reduced to 54 holes,” said Tournament Director David Probyn.
“We have taken the decision to suspend for today and restart at 8.45am, which will give us the best package for the players and TV. The wind will be strong early tomorrow but we are expecting no more than 20mph maximum which won’t cause us too much a problem.”
Despite a delay of almost five hours, yesterday’s high winds refused to die down and play was finally suspended for the day leaving the players with a two-round cut after play ends tomorrow (Saturday).
Of those who did manage to face the elements, Ireland’s Damien McGrane coped admirably with the wind picking up five birdies in his opening nine holes after starting at six-over par, while South African Branden Grace also fared well with four birdies in his six holes before play was suspended.
“It’s always windy here – it’s just one of those things,” said World Number Three Lee Westwood who dropped two shots in six holes to moved to one over par for the tournament. “The wind is part of the course’s defence. Cutting the tournament to 54 holes makes it tougher for me to win but we’ll see what score is leading after tomorrow.”
Organised by the Qatar Golf Association (QGA) in collaboration with the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) and title sponsor The Commercial Bank of Qatar, the tournament now sees American John Daly back out in front even though the former Open and USPGA Champion didn’t even tee up.
Gonzalez-Castano’s two dropped shots means Daly’s opening round of 67 (-5) puts him back out in front, one shot ahead of the Spaniard, Korea’s KJ Choi and Australian Jason Day – who managed to complete six holes in level par yesterday – on four under.
“There was no point on us putting the guys out on a questionable golf course as we would not have been able to catch up,” added Probyn.
“The gusts over 35mph prevented us playing today but we hadn’t reached a level where infrastructure was at risk. The balls were moving on the green which is the mandate for us to declare things unplayable – unfortunately we just couldn’t reach a point where we could carry on.”
Round two will continue tomorrow (Saturday) at 8.45am local time.