Inclement weather derails opening day of Masters

Executive Editor

   AUGUSTA, Ga. -- "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" would have been the perfect theme song on Thursday for those who gathered at Augusta National Golf Course, where the first round of the prestigious Masters suffered its first postponement since 1939.
   Under the siege of rain for the fifth consecutive day, Augusta National proved to be too big of a mess for the annual event to get underway, leaving each of the tournament's 93 players to endure a 36-hole schedule today -- barring any further delays.
   "We believe this golf course is unplayable," said Will Nicholson, chairman of the competition committees. "This golf course will just not take any more water."
   The four inches of rain that had fallen since Sunday were simply too much for the course to absorb, evidenced by a wealth of mud and soggy grass.
   "I've never seen anything like this here," said Ray Floyd, the 1976 Masters champion. "I know the decision not to play was tough, but what else can you do?"
   With no golf being played, the 30,000 fans who showed up mainly had nothing to do but visit the gift shop and meander around the Augusta grounds.
   Optimism could be found at Amen Corner, which was partly filled by fans. However, they would find no golf on such a dismal day.
   "They're probably desperate to see a shot," Scott Verplank said.
   Tiger Woods, aiming for his third straight Masters title, actually stayed away from the course while several other players camped out in the clubhouse or worked in a little extra practice.
   The inclement weather had one other effect on Thursday, deflecting much of the attention aimed at Martha Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations, and their fight against the Augusta National club's all-male membership policy.
   Burk and company are planning to protest on Saturday, when sunshine re-enters the forecast.
   "I'd like to see something good happen here because of all the negative press," David Toms said. "But we don't play in a dome. They'll get the tournament in, and they'll have a great champion."