Miguel Angel Jiménez was fuming at Valderrama yesterday and all without the benefit of his trademark Cuban cigar.
Less than four hours play were possible before torrential rain flooded greens and bunkers, forcing the suspension of the second round of the season-ending Volvo Masters with the ten leading players in the tournament yet to tee off.
After opening with a two-over par 73, Jiménez set off in the worst ravages of the rainstorm and by the time play was suspended just after three o’clock in the afternoon, his hopes of winning the tournament and the Order of Merit were dashed when he played the first four holes in seven over par to balloon to nine over for the tournament before he was put out of his misery by the claxon announcing the suspension of play.
He then sloshed his way back to the clubhouse and complained bitterly to the Tournament Director David Garland that play should never have started in the first place.
"I think the decision to suspend play should have been taken earlier,” said Jiménez, who finished his day on nine over par. “I understand play started because it was not that bad in the morning. But then it got worse, especially shots around the green, because the ball picked up so much mud. We kept on playing and it got worse and worse. It was brutal. It was unfair because who knows what conditions are going to be like tomorrow. We may not be playing under the same conditions and conditions must be the same for everybody.”
While Garland was “hopeful” that 72 holes can be completed before the tour heads to Shanghai for the start of the 2009 season next week, he added that the forecast for today is for heavy showers with some thunder and lightning and that a reduction of the event to 54 holes is “a definite, positive possibility.”
That’s bad news for Padraig Harrington’s chances of achieving the first or second place finish he needs to clinch the Order of Merit title for the second time in three years. But if the tournament is reduced to 36 holes, his chances are virtually nil, especially if the tour decides to reduce the €4.25 million purse by 75 percent.
“You’re depressing me now,” said Harrington, when asked about a 54-hole scenario. “Fifty-four holes really does count me out.”
Starting the day 11 shots behind overnight leader Soren Kjeldsen on five-over par, Harrington rediscovered his best form yesterday when he picked up his first birdie of the tournament at the first - “I gave myself a little cheer” - and another at the fifth to get back to three over par.
As the rain hammered down the Dubliner bogeyed the seventh, where he drove into heavy rough, and dropped another shot at the par-three 12th, where he failed to reach the green and hit the hole with a four-footer for par.
After saving par from 12 feet at the 13th, the hooter sounded as he stood over his drive on the 14th tee and while he finished the day where he started, on five-over par, he improved 16 places on the leaderboard to tied 27th.
Describing conditions as the worst he’d experience since the third round of the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield, when Tiger Woods shot a career-high 81, Harrington could only smile at the overly-optimistic weather forecast he heard on a local English-language station as he headed to the course at 6am.
“They forecast a high of 20 degrees for today,” Harrington beamed. “Every time it got miserable, Ronan and I would say to each other: ‘20 degrees today’ and when we stood on the back of the 14th for 15 or 20 minutes not knowing whether to walk or to wait or what was happening, the only thing that kept us entertained was the image of that weather man standing with us in his shorts and tee shirt with his sun cream on.”
Title holder Justin Rose added an 81 to his first round 80 and withdrew from the tournament when he learned at the finish that his maternal grandfather had passed away in South Africa on Thursday night.
Play will resume at 8.30 today with the third round scheduled to start in three-balls off two tees at approximately two o'clock. Barring further weather delays, the third round will be completed on Sunday morning.
Irish positions at suspension: D Clarke Level (Did not start), G McDowell +1 (1 hole), P Harrington +5 (13 holes), R McIlroy +6 (7 holes), D McGrane +6 (7 holes), P Lawrie +8 (11 holes), P McGinley +8 (11 holes).