Greg Hansen: Rain. cold could put heat on Match Play in Tucson

2013-02-20T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Rain. cold could put heat on Match Play in TucsonGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tiger Woods' worst day as a golfer was almost surely July 21, 2002, when he shot 81 at the British Open.

"That's the best I could have shot," he said.

Wind was measured at 45 mph that afternoon. Umbrellas did little good against the sideways rain. Colin Montgomerie shot an 85.

It was mid-July. I put a blanket on my lap to stay warm just watching it on TV.

I'm no Al Roker, but it could be worse today.

On Tuesday, looking into the blue sky above The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Tiger was asked about today's predicted storm, a dreaded wintry mix, at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships.

"We won't be working on our suntans," he said, unfazed, the type of reaction you'd expect from the man who won the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg.

So far this year, the PGA Tour canceled a round in Hawaii because of tree-bending wind, and lost another in San Diego because of scary-movie type fog. But it is unlikely to stop today's proceedings at Dove Mountain unless the fairways become flooded or until the greens turn white from snow.

The mudders in the field actually like this.

"When bad weather is expected, the thing that gives me a gleam in my eyes is when I hear people worrying about it, complaining about it," said 2011 champion Luke Donald. "I think the best approach is try to embrace it."

The Tommy Two Gloves look will flourish today.

I'm not worried about the golfers and their cold fingers, but I am worried about what the Accenture people and their well-heeled clients are thinking about a possible slush storm down Dove Mountain Boulevard.

If you recall, Accenture employed Tucson as its host site because it could quote James Taylor when asked why in the name of Tim Finchem it moved the match play venue from uber-chic Carlsbad, Calif., seven years ago.

"I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.…"

It took a pair of tournament-stopping rainstorms at the La Costa Resort and Spa for the Accenture executives to look for some sun. In 2004, the Thursday portion of the event was eliminated because the course was flooded. In 2005, opening day was pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday by an epic rainstorm.

The TV people don't like this any more than the golfers, but it's the 10,000 or 15,000 fans who pre-paid $55 for today's ticket who like it a lot less. After all, this is one of the marquee days on the global golf calendar.

And now it stands to be a lot like Game 1 of the 1979 World Series, when the Pirates and Orioles played in steady rain/snow with temperatures in the 30s. That gave a bad name to the World Series.

Today could give a bad name to the golf and tourism industry in Southern Arizona.

"No one wants to play in the rain and wind," said 2010 champion Ian Poulter. "I'm hoping we can get out there, get it done and get through it without being too disturbed."

So far, 29 of the 30 match play days in Tucson, over six years, have been mostly sunny or fully sunny or what Poulter would define as undisturbed. Perhaps we've been messing with the weather gods for too long.

What makes this a worthy topic is that Tucson's contract with the WGC, PGA Tour and Accenture people expires in 2014. We worry that one cockeyed storm, one day when the temperature plummets to 39 degrees and an icicle forms on Rory McIlroy's 2-iron, will lead those parties to the announce that they are taking the old we're-going-in-a-different direction mode.

Or maybe we're being too paranoid.

The 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am was reduced to 54 holes because of rain. The 200 Verizon Heritage tournament was victimized by winds so strong that luxury boxes had to be disassembled. Tiger's 2012 AT&T National tournament in Bethesda, Md., did not allow spectators in Round 3 because the course had been so heavily damaged by thunderstorms that it was deemed unsafe for fans.

At the 1987 British Open, Gary Player famously said, "I'm so wet, I think I shrunk a bit."

On Tuesday, before flying to Tucson as the analyst for NBC and the Golf Channel, Johnny Miller said he thrived in cold and rainy weather.

"I probably won as many tournaments as anybody in crappy weather; I had an advantage; I liked playing in cold weather," he said in a teleconference, referring to his days playing in Utah and Northern California.

"I used to have a little trick: I'd go warm up and practice, and then run to my car and turn the heater on full blast, to 110 degrees. Then I'd walk to the tee five minutes before teeing off and wouldn't even get cold. I got so dang hot in the car it felt like Miami in July. That was my little trick, and it really paid off."

Today at Dove Mountain, you should ask neither for an umbrella nor directions to the beer tent. You should ask Johnny Miller where he parked his car.

Contact reporter Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @GHansen711.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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