- Associated Press - Thursday, February 21, 2013

MARANA, Ariz. — Bundled in a winter jacket in a chilly tent near the snow-covered driving range, Mark Russell was asked where the opening day of the Match Play Championship ranked among his bizarre weather experiences.

“It’s right there,” said Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of competition.

And Russell has been on the job for more than 30 years.

First-round play in the World Golf Championships event was suspended Wednesday when rain that came down sideways quickly gave way to snow from a winter storm that dumped close to 2 inches on Dove Mountain in about an hour. The temperature plunged to 33 degrees at the cactus-lined layout 2,800 feet above sea level.

“I’ve seen snow on the course when I was a kid, but nothing like that on any of the tours. It was crazy,” said top-ranked Rory McIlroy, one of 20 players in the 64-man field who never even made it to the first tee Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton Club.

After more snow during the night and morning temperatures around freezing, the course remained coated Thursday morning and play finally resumed at 1 p.m.

The field is cut in half after each round and, with sunshine in the forecast the rest of the week, it shouldn’t be difficult to get caught up.

“We’ve got a lot of possibilities with this small field,” Russell said.

Tiger Woods also was in one of the 10 matches that didn’t start Wednesday. He opened against Charles Howell III, while McIlroy faced Shane Lowry.

Sergio Garcia, in the leadoff match, had just holed a 10-foot par putt to win the 15th hole and go 2 up over Thongchai Jaidee when play was suspended Wednesday.

Ian Poulter’s only other tournament this year was on Maui for the Tournament of Champions, where it took four days just to get started because of high wind.

“I can’t believe it. When have we ever seen that?” he said, taking off his rain gear in front of his locker. “The two events I’ve attempted to play this year have been three days of 50 mph wind and 2 inches of snow in an hour. It’s absolutely, flippin’ unbelievable.”

What does that say for the rest of the year?

“Can’t get worse,” he said. “Just incredible. Bizarre. Have you ever seen it? Especially where we are.”

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