The opening round of the South African Open was rained out Thursday with only six players having completed nine holes at Durban Country Club.
A group of five players were leading at 2 under when play was called for the day. They are two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, Scotland’s David Drysdale and South Africans Divan van den Heever and Martin Maritz.
2010 SOUTH AFRICAN OPEN
First played in 1893, the South African Open is the second-oldest national championship in golf, with only the British Open being older.
Only half the field made it on the course in the 100th edition of the world’s second-oldest national open, which is anctioned by both the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
Play was halted at 8:53 a.m. local time and never resumed, as the persistent drizzle came and went, making parts of the course unplayable. The rain left organizers having to wait more than five and a half hours before they made a final call on the proceedings at 2:30 p.m.
They now plan to dedicate Friday to Round 1 with an 8:30 a.m. start scheduled -- two hours later than normal -- and Saturday to Round 2.
"We've had in excess of three inches of rain -- that's a massive amount,” said Tournament Director Gary Todd. "We need maximum drainage, hence the 0830 start tomorrow. Hopefully the wind picks up this evening and it dries up a little bit and it gives the greenkeeper two hours tomorrow morning.
"The key is to get 36 holes in, which constitutes a tournament,” he explained. “So we'll get Round 2 done and make a cut. Then we'll see how things pan out and what the weather looks like. It will either be a 36-hole final round with a limited field or a 54-hole round with a full cut, 65 and ties."
Todd also seemed to rule out a Monday finish.
"Logistically it's quite tricky for the European guys to find flights this close to Christmas,” he said. “It's a very busy time and we'll need to weigh up all those options.
"Getting people in and out of the place at this time of year can be tricky,” he added. “So we might have to do what we can to get done on Sunday."
The five players tied for the lead when play as halted were in various stages of their front nine, with Goosen through four holes, Drysdale through seven, Olesen thrugh eight, and van den Heever and Maritz through six.
Norwegian Marius Thorp and South Africans Willie van der Merwe and Colin Nel -- three of the players who did manage to beat the rain and finish nine holes -- sit a shot off the leaders. They are part of a 12-man group on 1 under with Britons David Howell (through six) and Scott Jamieson (through three) as well as British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (through six), are also part of that group.
Defending champion Richie Ramsay was on 1 over through four holes -- the Scot's solitary bogey coming on the par-4 11th -- with the likes of Ernie Els and Tim Clark, both past winners, having to now wait 24 hours for their first round.