Hart survives wind, holds early lead

Posted: Friday, February 04, 2005


  Phil Mickekson hits from the bunker on the 12th green during the first round of the FBR Open at the Tournament Players Club Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005, in Scottsdale, Ariz. AP Photo/Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickekson hits from the bunker on the 12th green during the first round of the FBR Open at the Tournament Players Club Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

AP Photo/Phil Mickelson

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Dudley Hart was best at conquering a treacherous wind at the FBR Open through a slow, difficult first round that was suspended by darkness Thursday with 45 players still on the course.

Hart was the leader in the clubhouse at 4-under 67, one shot better than Stewart Cink and Hunter Mahan. Mahan finished his round just before play was stopped for the night, as did Hank Kuehne, who was two shots back at 69.

Of those who didn't finish the round, Heath Slocum was at 3 under through 16 holes and Charles Warren was 3 under through 13. The first round will be completed Friday morning, before the second round begins in the 72-hole event.

The wind forced a 33-minute stop in play in mid-morning so workers could water the greens. The afternoon starts were delayed for 1 1/2 hours while the earlier groups finished and the greens were watered.

The FBR — formerly the Phoenix Open — has been disrupted by frost and rain in past years, but wind is almost never a reason for suspending play anywhere.

''It's only happened to me one other time,'' Cink said, ''at the British Open in '98.''

Slugger White, tour tournament director, called the situation ''most unusual.'' He said the last time he can remember a wind delay at a PGA event was some 20 years ago in Las Vegas.

Gusts stronger than 30 mph blew balls off some of the fast low-cut greens on the 7,216-yard Tournament Players Club course and left the game's best players guessing what club would work on any given hole.

Vijay Singh was one of three at even-par 71, and Phil Mickelson was 2 over through 16 holes. John Daly, who came in from pre-Super Bowl festivities late Tuesday night and played in Wednesday's pro-am, shot a 10-over 81, then withdrew.

, citing illness.

Cink, who won twice last year and has two fifth-place finishes this year, said that watering between the two groups probably wasn't fair but was understandable.

''The way the wind was going this morning, if they hadn't watered, we may still be sitting over there on the eighth green just waiting,'' he said. ''When they get the greens cut down fast, this is the risk. If it gets windy, the course doesn't play.''

Both of Cink's playing partners experienced the wind's impact.

''Chad Campbell's ball got blown all the way off the green on 8 and he had to play it,'' Cink said. ''Mike Weir's ball, he chipped it up towards the hole. When he went to putt, he replaced his ball at the mark and the wind blew it about 6 inches from the hole. So tell me that's fair. It's not.''

Hart, who has two tour victories but none since 2000, used his ability to ''punch'' the ball at low altitude to counter the wind that swept across the desert course from the east.

''I definitely think I have an advantage over most guys when the wind blows because I can hit it low,'' he said. ''And I've grown up in Florida, or spending so much time in south Florida, the wind blows a lot. I remember when I first moved down there, I didn't know how to hit a punch shot and I had to learn to do that. That comes in handy.''

Hart had three birdies, along with an eagle on the par-5, 554-yard third hole. He was 5 under going into the 18th, but bogeyed the final hole.

Cink used Nike's promotional black ball on the par-3, 162-yard 16th hole, and got a birdie.

''The first time you see that black ball up on the tee it looks a little weird,'' Cink said, ''but I just told myself to trust my swing and hit a good shot, and I made about a 20-footer there.''

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