A Wet First Day Augusta National Forecasted But Hopefully Nothing Like The Smell At 2002 Masters.

The weather forecast for the start of the 88th hosting of the Masters is not all that encouraging – heavy rain from around 3am Thusday Augusta time and continuing strongly through to near midday accompanied also by strong winds.

It is forecasted that also states that there is a chance of the rain continuing well up to midnight on day one.

If so, and as it being predicted, there could be suspensions to play if, of course, greens begin to flood.

Fortunately, the forecast for the remaining three days is brighter with no rain at all expected on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and instead bright sunshine with temperatures nudging from 24 to 29 degrees Celcius in the period 12 noon to 5pm on the final day.

Of course, the forecasted rain is not uncommon at Augusta National as adverse weather has forced at least one suspension in play in each of the past five editions of The Masters, while rain has been experienced in over half of the 88 previous editions of the event.

However, while I’ve been in attendance at 23 hostings of The Masters nothing compares to the conditions and the smell, yes the smell, that was present when rain flooded the Georgia golfing gem at the 2002 Masters.

The rain began Thursday night and let up only for about three hours Friday afternoon before a downpour forced suspension of play at 5 p.m. It was still drizzling when play resumed at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Players complained of “mud balls” and inconsistent greens, but their discomfort was nothing compared with that of  tournament spectators.

Heavily trafficked areas around the clubhouse, on crosswalks and along the restraining ropes turned into a foul-smelling  quagmire.

If the resulting mess was worse than anyone could remember, the explanation lay in part with renovations and the extensions of some tees, especially around the first tee and ninth and 18th greens, where spectators were forced onto narrower paths over areas that had only recently been rebuilt and re-grassed.

Augusta National’s maintenance crew threw truckloads of sand and pine straw onto slopes and walking paths, including a 20-yard swath on the first and ninth fairway crosswalks.

What turned out worst was that a granular absorbent that looked suspiciously like cat litter was scattered on sodden grass all around the clubhouse and the area to and from the main scoreboard.

If you thought the stench from the on-course spectator walkways was bad it was nothing compared to the smell now being generated by soaking ‘cat litter’.

Back on course and players were seeking relief from casual water in fairways by takking drops as far as 30 yards from where their balls had originally come to rest. The muck proved problematic for those looking for relief after stray shots ended up in spectator areas.

At one point during the third round, Fred Couples hit onto the ninth green before the group ahead had even reached the putting surface. Steve Lowery was so far right of the green, searching for an area to take relief from the mud, that Couples assumed the hole had cleared.

Some players questioned whether the second round should have begun Friday, or been restarted so soon (9 a.m. Saturday). At the very least, many argued, the lift, clean and place provision should have been put into effect.

“There is water everywhere,” said Greg Norman, prior to the noon start of the third round. “This a questionable case. It’s really marginal out there.”

Nick Price was more emphatic. “We shouldn’t have played, pure and simple,” Price said after completing a second-round 76 before the suspension.

Then there was the specators leaving the propery looking as though that had been motor-crossing and not out golf spectating.

And then there was the smell.  It was a wretched smell and the like I can still recall as the only time I’ve smelt such a smell on a golf course.

Though there was nothing smelly or untoward with Tiger Woods’ effort showing a clean pair of heels in capturing a second straight Masters for Augusta victory #3.

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