AUGUSTA (Georgia) • Severe thunderstorms shortened Monday's first official practice session for the 81st Masters, but the outlook brightened for Australia's Jason Day ahead of the year's first men's golf Major.
The world No. 3 played nine holes at Augusta National, his fourth consecutive day on the fabled course, before it was closed in the early afternoon when the area fell under a tornado warning. He withdrew from the World Golf Championships Matchplay two weeks ago to be with his mother as she faced cancer surgery.
Her uncertain prognosis through chemotherapy kept his status in doubt for the Masters. But he said his mother Dening is improving and she might even be at the course on the weekend to watch him compete for the Green Jacket.
"She's good," Day said. "She had the left quarter of her lung taken out... I was with her pretty much every day back home. She is in a fair amount of pain but hopefully things are looking up."
The three holes that mark Amen Corner at Augusta National - from 11th to 13th - that could make or break any golfer's round at the Masters.
A severe thunderstorm closed the course for more than an hour and forced evacuation even before the tornado warning shut down the course for the remainder of the day. Heavy rains and strong thunderstorms were expected again this morning (Singapore time) on the eve of the opening round, which could soften the greens and lead to more showers for early starters.
After that, the forecast is for dry conditions at Augusta National, where weather has not suspended play since the third round in 2008 and not postponed a round since the opening round in 2003. Even if greens and fairways are more receptive, it is likely that the fast putting surfaces will be back at full speed for Sunday's final round.
"You've got to hit the shots in the right spots," warned world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
One of the crucial areas to master is Amen Corner - the noted par-four 11th, par-three 12th and par-five 13th holes. Jordan Spieth was on his way to retaining his title in last year's final round, only to find a watery grave twice into Rae's Creek and take a quadruple bogey at No. 12, helping England's Danny Willett take the top prize.
"Yeah, it's a really good stretch of golf, especially with the way the forecast is looking for Thursday and Friday," said 2016 PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker. "The winds look like they're going to be pretty gnarly, and that's a section of the course that gets really tough, especially if the wind swirls. (If) you get through there even par, you're doing really well against the field."
Willett has not won a tournament since slipping on the Green Jacket. His best recent result was fifth in the Maybank Championship in February. As such, he is hoping that the spotlight will be off him.
The 29-year-old told reporters. "There are obviously going to be a few commitments and stuff through the week but in terms of going under the radar, I think it will probably be very similar to last year, even as defending champion."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS