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Start delayed, there’s optimism at the Waste Management Open

Editor’s Note: Golf began play at 11 a.m. on Friday.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz – They teed off shortly before noon Thursday and by the time a shortened day one at the Waste Management Phoenix Open was over there was a four-way tie for the lead.

Still, while Tom Lehman, Jason Bohn, Bill Haas and Tom Gillis shot six-under 65s, the talk of the day was how the weather, which led to the cancellation of the Pro-Am Wednesday, caused a lengthy delay when it came time for the real thing.

“Two weeks ago it looked beautiful, it looked like we’d have days in the low 70s,” said Mike McQuaid, the open’s chairman.

But alas it was not to be, as overnight temperatures in the 20s led to an incredibly chilly morning. It was 39 degrees when play finally started at the TPC Scottsdale.

McQuaid said the Tour controls when play can start, and they are keeping an eye on course conditions more than player comfort. Cold greens get beat up pretty bad, and they have an entire weekend of golf to look towards.

“They’re not going to let them go out there and ruin the greens when they have three more rounds to play,” he said.

Ultimately golf was played, even under the unusual-for-Scottsdale conditions, and after shooting a -5, Chris Couch said the biggest issue for him was not the course condition.

“It took a lot of patience out there today,” he said, “we waited four hours to tee off, I sat in the locker room the whole time.”

But once he finally got to play Couch said things went well, and overall it appears things could have been much worse.

Gillis actually said it didn’t even seem that cold, but he was glad for the delay.

“I just slept in until seven o’clock, I knew we weren’t going, there’s just no way,” he said, adding that he checked his phone in the morning, saw the temperature and knew what would happen. “Usually at first off you’re up at 5:00 a.m., you’re trying to get ready, get warmed up, so I thought it was great.”

Wednesday’s crowd, which McQuaid said was a tournament-low 15,000, was as understandable as it was disappointing. McQuaid, though, is optimistic things will turn around as the weekend approaches with not only stronger numbers but more energy too.

“The people were out here, were having a good time, there was no golf, they were enjoying themselves,” he said. “I think once they get out there, even though it is colder, they’ll be dressed in layers but they’ll come out.”

And, as Couch said, if it were him the colder weather would not have an adverse effect on his enjoyment of the tournament.

“I tell ya, if I was in the crowd I’d be drinking more because of this weather, but that’s just me,” he said, adding that he expects the rowdiness to pick up over the weekend.

If the weather keeps at it the weekend could end without a champion crowned. Not everyone finished their first round Thursday, which means they’re already behind. Saying some will likely have to play more than 18 holes Sunday, McQuaid said while he’d rather not think about playing into next week, he understands that it could be a possibility.

“That’s a Tour decision and we’ll have to wait to see what the Tour says based on daylight.”