Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson had a snowball fight. Graeme McDowell bunkered down near a fireplace and drank hot chocolate and tea. Branden Grace, seeing snow for the first time in his life, dabbled his hands in it to see what it felt like.

It wasn't your average opening day of competition at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Officials halted play at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain a little after 1 p.m. Wednesday because of rain and snow. Rain hit the area shortly before 11 a.m. and in minutes turned to snow - lots of it.

The large flakes started sticking to the course, and the players were called in.

After a two-hour delay, play was canceled for the day. Twenty-three matches had begun, though none had finished. Nine more matches had yet to begin.

"I have never seen anything like that at a golf tournament," Rory McIlroy said. "I've seen snow on the course when I was a kid, but nothing like that on any day of the tours. It was crazy."

The PGA Tour's on-site event meteorologist, Stewart Williams, estimated that there was about 1 1/2 inches of snow on the course when play was canceled. More snow fell on Dove Mountain after 5 p.m., coating the course with another half-inch or more of snow. The late snowfall could put this morning's 8:30 a.m. restart in jeopardy.

Play will pick up where it left off. Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III, who were originally scheduled to tee off at 12:25 p.m. Wednesday, are instead scheduled to start at 9:50 a.m. today.

McIlroy and Shane Lowry are scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. tee-off.

Players who already started their rounds will finish in the morning, then turn their focus to the second round. Tournament officials are hopeful that Round 2 can start by midday. That would allow the tournament to be caught up by the end of the day Friday and be back to the normal schedule by Saturday.

The format will sort itself out eventually. Wednesday, though, was all about the snow.

Nearly the entire field took the cancellation in stride; some even had some fun playing in and with the snow.

Peter Hanson, who had yet to tee off, nailed former Match Play champion Ian Poulter with a snowball. Poulter, who is leading Stephen Gallacher 3 up through 12 holes, said Wednesday he's focused on finishing his opponent off and also getting back at Hanson.

"I got snowballed by Hanson, yes," Poulter said. "I'm like an elephant; I will not forget."

Grace, born in Pretoria, South Africa, had seen snow only on TV and in movies, he said. He was bent over like a baseball catcher checking out the snow when Louis Oosthuizen's caddie, Wynand Stander, nailed him with a snowball.

Grace was too fixated on the snow to retaliate.

"It's amazing how fast it came and stuck to the ground," he said. "I have really never seen anything like it. It's really neat how quickly it dissolves."

Other golfers were used to the snow. Webb Simpson, who hit one shot before the horn sounded for a delay, had the best weather story.

"I remember one year in Vegas in a collegiate tournament, it was sleeting," said Simpson, who played at Wake Forest. "We all charged toboggans to our coach in the pro shop, and he wasn't happy about it."

Simpson's match, and 22 others, started before the delay.

The largest lead of the day before the delay belonged to Jason Day. The tournament's No. 41 overall seed leads 24th-ranked Zach Johnson 6 up through 10 holes.

Sergio Garcia, the first to tee off Wednesday, leads Thongchai Jaidee 2 up on the 16th hole. Garcia has a putt left to win the match.

Americans Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar also have big leads heading into today.

"I have to get back into that game mode," Day said. "I have to try to get back into a good frame of mind and make sure that I start off thinking that we're all square."


• What: First and second rounds

• Where: The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Marana

• Matches start: 8:30 a.m.

• TV: 10:30 a.m. on Golf Channel

• Tickets: Buy at Bashas', call 520-571-0400 or go to worldgolfchampionships.com

Bonus golf

Fans who bought tickets to Wednesday's first round will be able to return for free on Sunday for the semifinals and finals.

In order to gain access, fans must bring their Wednesday ticket to the gate on Sunday. Pre-paid Wednesday parking passes will also be honored for the final day.

Fans who presented a Wednesday ticket last year got access to Sunday, too, after fans complained that it took too long to get from the parking lot to the course.

More inside

• Partial results/today's tee times

• Seen & heard at Dove Mountain

• Golf snow in Tucson not that rare

Pages B6-B7

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.