Reuters - Wed, 07 Apr 01:00:00 2010
Unseasonably high temperatures have left Augusta National running fast and firm for this week's US Masters where world number one Tiger Woods makes his long anticipated return to competition.
The mercury peaked at 91 degrees (33 degrees Celsius) at nearby Augusta Regional Airport on Monday and Tuesday, an April record according to the National Weather Service.
"The course is playing a little shorter because of the heat," twice champion Phil Mickelson told reporters on Tuesday. "The ball is going a long ways in the practice rounds.
"The grass is a little bit longer around the greens and we can chip, as opposed to being forced to putt. I don't know if that's going to change Thursday or not."
There is a chance of rain in the late afternoon on Thursday for the opening round at Augusta National, although sunny conditions have been forecast for the weekend.
"If they can get the greens firmer and faster, it looks like looks the golf course is going to be firm and fast," said Irishman Padraig Harrington, a three-times major winner.
"It looks like it will be one of those years here where there will be a lot of control (required for approach shots), and in likelihood being a very firm and fast control."
Another by-product of the high temperatures at Augusta has been a spiking pollen count, resulting in several players and fans sneezing their way around the heavily contoured layout.
With its spectacular setting amid Georgian pines and blooming azaleas, the rolling course is one of the most beautiful venues in the world but it can also be a place of torment for hay fever sufferers.
Woods, a four-times champion at Augusta National, has long been a hay fever sufferer and he has worn sunglasses as a precaution while preparing for this week's tournament.
The 34-year-old American has not played competitively since winning the Australian Masters on November 15 following startling revelations at the end of last year that he had had a string of extra-marital affairs.