After a seven-month delay due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, The Masters finally launched on Thursday morning.
The action was short-lived, however, as the game was interrupted at 7:35 ET after torrential rain and lightning struck the Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia, barely 30 minutes after Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had hit the usual honorary tee-offs to open the tournament.
At the time of writing this article, play was expected to resume at 10:30 ET.
The rain delay could pose a major logistical challenge for the organizers, who were already facing a tighter window of daylight after the tournament was moved to its traditional venue in April – the Masters was scheduled to run from April 9th to April 12th and through mid-November.
In order to maximize the available daylight hours, the game started from both sets of tees, which was common for PGA Tour events, but relatively unusual for the four majors, especially in Augusta.
Since more than two hours may have been lost due to a rain delay and the final tee times of the opening round were originally scheduled for 12:32 ET, it seems unlikely that the first round will be completed by sunset at 17:26 ET.
According to the master’s forecast, the thunderstorms were part of a cold front located about 30 to 40 miles west of Augusta National, with intermittent heavy rains that are expected to continue until 1:00 p.m. ET. Scattered showers will continue behind the front until 16:00 ET, with cloudy skies expected until Friday morning.
The second and third rounds on Friday and Saturday should be held with mostly sunny skies, albeit with cooler temperatures, before cloudy weather on Sunday.
If the game is not finished in time by sunset on Sunday, the tournament will continue on Monday.
The Masters was last finished on a Monday in 1983, when heavy rain washed out the entire second round – the last time a whole round was cancelled.
Heavy rain also forced the cancellation of an entire round in 1961 and 1973.
In 1936 and 1939, 36 holes were played on the final day after previous rounds had been affected by bad weather.
Until this year The Masters was never played outside of March or April and had been played without interruption for the last 74 years.
Since its introduction in 1936, the tournament had only been cancelled between 1943 and 1945 due to World War II.
Since 1946, it was never played outside the first two weeks of April, until the coronavirus pandemic forced the organizers to break with tradition.