Playing the waiting game is a frustrating one for tour players. But there was little option during today's opening round of the €4.3million Shell Houston Open in Texas where play was suspended on more than one occasion before it was abandoned for the day with Lee Westwood leading the way but still with half his round to complete.
The tournament got off on the wrong footing when this morning’s thunderstorms meant play was suspended for over two hours at Redstone Golf Club before high winds necessitated a further delay after PGA Tour officials deemed the course unplayable.
The interruptions meant British Open and US PGA champion Pádraig Harrington was the only Irishman to take to the course. Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke were in the same boat as half the 144 field who never got to start their opening rounds.
Harrington set off from the 10th and made a fine start with back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th. However, the early momentum was short-lived as the Dubliner gave back his advantage with consecutive bogeys from the 15th.
It was a low note for Harrington to finish on as the claxon to suspend play sounded immediately afterwards to leave the 37-year-old level par after just seven holes.
Westwood also had reason to feel frustrated when his fast start was called to a halt after nine holes. Although the 7,457-yard par 72 layout at Redstone is set up to replicate conditions for next week’s Masters at Augusta, the Englishman appeared to have little trouble negotiating an easy course.
By the time he reached the turn the Ryder Cup star had carded four birdies and no dropped shot to lead on four-under.
Fast greens and tight lies didn’t affect Westwood as he birdied the first, second and seventh holes before sinking a 45-foot putt over the spine of the green for a birdie two at the ninth.
That gave the 35-year-old a two-stroke advantage over the chasing pack of eight players, including the big-hitting American JB Holmes, who managed to complete eight holes. Major winner Justin Leonard and Korea’s Charlie Wi were also two-under.
“It was very tricky out there, but the way the course is set up it was good to get a feel for the similar conditions we expect next week,” said Westwood after being called off the course.
“There’s no doubt the ball was oscillating on the greens - that’s the technical term for wobbling. That’s also when conditions get silly but it’s just one of those unfortunate things.
“It’s particularly unfortunate because the sun is shining, but with the wind blowing over 40mph there was no option but to stop play,” added Westwood, who is reaping the benefit of work done with coach Butch Harmon in Dubai recently.
Westwood’s compatriot Greg Owen was atop another large group on one-under. The Englishman birdied the second, then bogeyed the third and fourth but bounced back with three birdies-in-a-row from the fifth.
University of Houston graduate Fred Couples was also one-under after six holes, while another veteran Greg Norman was level par after eight holes as the Australian prepares for his first Masters tournament since 2002.
Sweden’s Daniel Chopra was also level after six, while Alex Cejka of Germany was one-over after nine with England’s Luke Donald and Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobsen both two-over having played 10 and 11 holes respectively.
World number two Phil Mickelson strled in the windy conditions after teeing it up for the first time since winning the WGC-CA Championship at Doral two weeks ago.
The American left-hander was three-over after eight holes alongside fellow major winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina.
Such strling paled when compared to Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, who had a terrible time to drop to nine over par after 11 holes, courtesy of two double bogeys and five bogeys.