Dubai Desert Classic battles deluge


The Dubai Desert Classic was hit by a deluge of biblical proportion with Thursday's opening round behind closed doors hit by a lengthy delay.

A weather front on the eve of play dumped nearly 40 millimetres of rain and caused a delay of over six hours as maintenance staff battled to make the course playable.

Only 18 players managed to complete their rounds, leaving well over one hundred facing an early start Friday.

Only two groups on either sides of the soaked golf course were able to finish their round, and the remaining players from the morning wave will have to return early and finish theirs.

None of the afternoon group could go out on the golf course and they face the prospect of a long day of 36 holes.

Among those who finished their rounds were the English trio of Matthew Jordan, Oliver Wilson and Daniel Gavins, who were tied for the lead in the clubhouse at four-under par 68.

Rory McIlroy was left facing a four-feet birdie putt on the seventh hole, his 16th after starting from the 10th tee, to move to three-under par when first-round play resumes on Friday morning.

The world number one did well to bounce back from two early bogeys, in a round in which his putter seemed hot despite the wet conditions at Emirates Golf Club.

Preferred lies were in operation and the water-logged thick rough provided a real test to the field.

Thursday's round was held behind closed doors.

"We had a lot of rain yesterday afternoon so the first decision that was made with the tournament promoters, Falcon Golf, was to minimise the number of people on site today by playing behind closed doors, including closing hospitality," tournament director Mike Stewart said.

"This decision was taken last night for the safety of everybody, in part because it was going to be very hard for large numbers of people to reach the venue.

"The biggest issues from the golf club's perspective were the bunkers and some of the waste areas which had flooded really badly, so they had to get those bunkers pumped out.

"Matthew Perry, the golf course superintendent, and his team did a fantastic job, and it was quite an incredible effort to get the golf course ready.

"We're all pulling together to focus on the key areas that need to be addressed and what we need to do next. I think we did really well to play today."

Thomas Pieters, who missed the cut last week as the defending champion of the Abu Dhabi Championship, seemed to be bouncing back well from the disappointment.

When play was suspended in the evening due to bad light, the Belgian had moved to five-under par through 15 holes.

The Dubai Desert Classic is the second straight week of Rolex Series events on the European Tour.

The winner will walk away with $1.53 million and important Ryder Cup points.



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