Masters: Storms pound Augusta, delay practice

Course workers clean debris off the eighth fairway before today's practice round for the Masters golf tournament Tuesday, April 5, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. AP Photo/Dave Martin

AUGUSTA, Georgia - Augusta National has opened its gates after a 45-minute delay to give workers time to clean debris from overnight storms before practice rounds at the Masters.

The storms toppled trees and some power lines across town. There was no word on any damage to the golf course.

Chainsaws could be heard from various corners of the course on Tuesday. In the final minutes before fans were allowed on Augusta National, numerous carts were hauling away tree limbs. Some marshals were picking up debris from fairways.

U.S. PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka were the first to tee off for a practice round. Defending champion Phil Mickelson also was set to play, bounding up stairs to the champions locker room with coach Butch Harmon in tow.

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Augusta is usually the most mega-manicured course the world's best golfers play every year.

This time, the club put away the razor blades, reports CBSSports.com's Steve Elling.

Several players reported after their practice rounds Monday that the runoff areas surrounding the greens were not as closely cropped as in year's past, prompting England's Justin Rose to predict that more players would take on the back nine's two fateful par-5s in two as a result.

Balls that come up short won't be as likely to roll into the water fronting the 13th and 15th greens, he reasoned, or run as far away from flags on other holes. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell second the notion and noted that the set up was "more generous" around the greens this time around.

Then again, McDowell also cautioned that what players saw on Monday might be lawnmower mulch by Thursday's first round. Meaning, all but plower under.

Sounds like he can rest easy, though. Fred Ridley, a longtime club official who runs the Masters competition committee, handles the course set-up. No sooner had Rose and McDowell noted the welcome development around the collars than did Ridley happen by on the way to the Augusta clubhouse.

"It's pretty much set up now the way it'll be Thursday through Sunday," he said when informed of player comments. "Yes, there's a little bit of a second cut there."

Rose also noted that there appeared to be more sand in the bottom of the tributary to Rae's Creek that cuts in front of the 13th. Rose predicted that players would attempt shots from the creekbed if second shots failed to clear the water or wedges spun too far backward.

"I am not aware of that, and if it's true, it's not because of anything we did,"' Ridley said. "That would just be a result of the water levels and whatever."

Either way, it has the makings of an interesting back nine on Sunday.

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