Golf: Masters course closes under stormy forecast

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the 17th hole during a practice round on April 5, 2017.
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot on the 17th hole during a practice round on April 5, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

AUGUSTA, United States (AFP) - Augusta National Golf Club closed early on Wednesday afternoon (April 5) and spectators were evacuated as severe thunderstorms cut short the final practice sessions for the 81st Masters.

An earlier storm warning shut down the famed layout for two-and-a-half hours before conditions eased and players and fans returned to the course and driving range.

But after a tornado warning was issued about a half hour's drive north of the course, officials ordered spectators off the complex and shut down the annual Par-3 Contest.

Heavy rain and gusting winds with lightning and thunder were forecast for the region, expected to soak the 7,435-yard course before the start of the year's first major men's golf championship on Thursday.