'Diabolical' downpour wreaks havoc at Volvo Masters

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The Independent Online

If the good forecast for today and tomorrow is as accurate as yesterday's "diabolical" one proved to be, tournament officials are still hoping to complete 72 holes in the Volvo Masters by tomorrow evening. High winds and then torrential rain led to play being abandoned for the day at Valderrama yesterday.

With the exception of Thursday, those taking a half-term holiday on the Costa del Sol have found the area particularly ill-named. However, when the European Tour arrives at Valderrama, there are usually few concerns about the amount of water the course can take.

The 1997 Ryder Cup was completed on time despite another week of deluges. Had it been any other venue, the match may never have finished but for the remarkable efforts of the Valderrama owner, Jaime Ortiz-Patino, and his greenkeeping team, not to mention his well draining course.

But yesterday's problems started with strong winds, which gusted to 50mph. On the exposed 11th green, balls were moving on the putting surface despite attempts to slow the speed of the greens by not mowing them as often as usual overnight. David Garland, the tournament director, said the conditions early in the morning were "horrid, but playable".

But Garland added: "We were in touch with the Met Office in Birmingham and Gibraltar and Malaga airports and the forecast was diabolical for the rest of the day. It was too much of a risk to start for an hour in two-balls."

Instead, the second round will start this morning with three-balls playing off two tees. The third round will start in the afternoon with the players in the same groups, with an hour to an hour and a half's play expected tomorrow morning to complete the round.

Once the winds dropped in the late morning, the rains began again with almost two inches falling in the afternoon storm. There had already been seven inches of rain on the coast between last Saturday and Thursday night. Twice the Volvo Masters has been cut to 54 holes, but both times at Montecastillo in Jerez. Rain washed out the final round in 1997 and gales meant the third day was cancelled two years ago.

Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson held the lead at the end of the first round with a 64, eight under par, on Thursday, with Anders Hansen, of Denmark, two strokes behind and Spain's Carlos Rodiles on 68. The good news for Colin Montgomerie, who scored a 71, was that he had another day to get physiotherapy on his back, which played up again over the closing holes.

There was one important moment yesterday when Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, assisted by the Spanish Ryder Cup player Miguel Angel Jimenez, made a presentation to Maria Acacia Lopez Bachiller, who has presided over press tents in Spain with motherly devotion for 30 years, in the process translating millions of words into Spanish and English for players, press and officials alike.

* Charles Howell shot a five-under-par 66 to build a one-stroke lead over Dan Forsman after the first round of the Chrysler Championship at the Copperhead course in Palm Harbor, Florida. His fellow Americans Jerry Kelly, Chad Campbell, Robert Gamez and Argentina's Jose Coceres shared third after carding 68s.

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