Payne: Augusta National to be ready despite storm
Augusta National will be ready for the Masters, despite a major storm that dumped 1.4 inches of rain on the course, washed out bunkers, toppled trees and even knocked out a bathroom.
The course opened about a half-hour late for practice rounds Wednesday and conditions remained extremely wet. But crews were working around the clock, and chairman Billy Payne said he expected the course to be back in ''competitive condition'' in time for Thursday's first round.
''Clearly the golf course will not be as firm and fast as it would otherwise be,'' said Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters' competition committee. ''We are very confident that we will have comparable tournament-speed greens.''
Admittedly we won't have the firmness, but we think that we have looked at a setup that takes all of that into consideration, as we always do with weather considerations, and we think it's going to be a good setup for tomorrow.''
According to the forecast, showers and thunderstorms are likely Thursday, especially during the afternoon and evening, with more rain possible Friday morning. No rain is in the weekend forecast.
The course was already soft before Tuesday night's storm, and chairman Billy Payne was asked if there was a possibility of invoking the lift, clean and place rule, only used under the most dire of circumstances at the majors. Augusta National officials said they could not recall a time the rule has been used at the Masters.
''We surely would not want to have to do that. That would be a decision very difficult to make,'' Payne said. ''However, we are also bright enough to know that weather conditions can have an impact on that, and possibly cause us to change our minds on that issue.''
The storm that moved through Tuesday night caused Rae's Creek to flood, but Payne said it occurred below Hogan's Bridge, which leads to the 12th green, and didn't affect conditions. None of the trees that fell will affect play, either, Payne said, though one did hit a restroom on the 16th hole and caused significant damage.
''We hope to have it rebuilt and up and running by the end of the day,'' Payne said.
Weather has already given this year's Masters a new look. Hotter-than-normal spring temperatures have caused the azaleas, which give Augusta National its signature brilliant colors, to lose their red and pink blooms.