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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Masters set for Friday start
World number two Ernie Els
Extended coverage on BBC2 from 1845 BST on Friday
US Masters officials hope to start the tournament on Friday after heavy rain washed out the first scheduled day of play on Thursday at Augusta.

The action in the year's first Major is set to begin at 1230 BST from both the first and 10th tees.

Organisers are hoping to fit in the second round on the same day, starting at about 1830 BST.

It is the first time since 1939 that rain has forced the opening round to be postponed.

The weather is forecast is for light showers on Friday, improving to clear, sunny skies and 75F temperatures at the weekend.

The infamously slick greens at Augusta are expected to play as normal owing to sophisticated underground pumps.

But it is the soggy state of the fairways that is causing concern.

"The greens are perfect but the fairways have a skim of water all over them. You can't find a dry step. They're soggy marshes," said BBC golf commentator Ken Brown.

"We will complete 72 holes - sometime..."
Will Nicholson
Chairman of competition committees at Augusta

More than 10cm of rain has fallen on Augusta since Sunday. The course did not open for practice on Monday and the popular par-three contest was rained out on Wednesday.

When play does eventually get underway, defending champion Tiger Woods will be targeting an unprecedented third straight Masters title.

Woods is a member of an elite trio to have successfully defended their titles, along with Jack Nicklaus (1965-66) and Nick Faldo (1989-90).

Ernie Els
Els was tied fifth at Augusta last year

Last year he beat South African Retief Goosen by three shots to win his third green jacket after becoming the youngest winner at 21 in 1997.

Woods has won three of the five tournaments he has entered this year but his main threat will come from world number two Ernie Els, the Open champion, who has won four times around the world this season.

South Africa's Els came joint-fifth at Augusta last year, while his best finish was as runner-up to Fijian Vijay Singh in 2000.

World number three Phil Mickelson has decided to ignore the aura of Woods and concentrate on his own game as he tries to rid himself of the tag of "best player never to have won a Major".

"You can't look at it as though you're competing against a different person because as Bobby Jones always used to say, he was always competing against Old Man par, even in matchplay," said Mickelson.

"That's the way a player needs to look at it, how low can he shoot, not what is that player doing?"

The 16-strong European challenge will be led by Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who was tied-fifth last year, and who finished second behind Davis Love at The Players' Championship.

European Ryder Cup stars Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Sergio Garcia all continue their quest for a first Major, while England's Justin Rose makes his Masters debut.

Nicklaus, four-time winner Arnold Palmer and triple champion Gary Player will also compete at Augusta, possibly for the last time.

The death of golf legend Sam Snead last year means there will be no ceremonial starter.

Links to more Masters 2003 stories


BBC Five Live's Iain Carter
"The decision was unavoidable"

Ernie Els
"It's more frustrating for the green staff"


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