Frost, cold conditions could delay Phoenix Open

Hunter Mahan tees off at the 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Hunter Mahan tees off at the 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The little patch of ice on the sidewalk outside the front entrance at the Phoenix Open was easy to step over. There was no way to miss the frigid temperatures and biting wind.

“You get cold mornings and you get some frost, but this is a legitimate winter day today,” Scottsdale-based Geoff Ogilvy said after his pro-am round was canceled Wednesday because of frozen turf at TPC Scottsdale. “There’s a reason why people move here from up north in winter, and it’s not for days like this.”

The temperature was in the high 20s early in the morning when the players started arriving and only 35 around 11 a.m. when the pro-am was called off.

“The greens are still frozen,” said Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules. “The approaches are frozen. And it just would do a tremendous amount of damage if we walked on it, just tracking everything up with the greens being frozen.”

With overnight temperatures well into the 20s, frost was expected to lead to long delays before play can start Thursday and Friday.

“Anything could happen with the weather, but it doesn’t look good tomorrow morning,” White said. “It’s supposed to be colder. And it might be even colder on Friday. So, we’ll just see.”

Phil Mickelson planned to use a softer, lower compression ball in the chilly conditions, a tactic he used last week in his second-place finish at Torrey Pines.

“I’ve been switching golf balls in cold weather,” the former Arizona State player said. “It helped me last week at Torrey where it was fairly cold. It wasn’t as warm. And it’s going to help me this week, as well.

“When it gets cold the ball doesn’t compress as well and when it hits the face the face actually moves, and the misses get exaggerated, and this golf ball doesn’t do that,” he added. “This golf ball compresses very easily, so I hit it a lot straighter in cold conditions.”

Bubba Watson, coming off a one-stroke victory over Mickelson on Sunday in San Diego, had no plans to switch balls.

“I won with that ball last week,” said the long-hitting Watson, also an area resident. “I don’t care if it’s cold or hot. I’m playing with that ball again. ... I’m not going to change because of cold weather, hot weather, whatever.”

Mickelson won at TPC Scottsdale in 1996 and 2005. In 2005, he shot a 60 in the second round en route to a five-stroke victory.

“I love coming back,” Mickelson said. “It’s one of my favorite places as always to play here in Phoenix where I spent so many years of my life, and my time at Arizona State was so much fun. I’m excited to be back here because I also feel like I’m playing some good golf and would like to try to improve on last week’s close call.”

Hunter Mahan won last year for the first of his two 2010 titles, closing with consecutive bogey-free 6-under 65s to beat Rickie Fowler by a stroke.

“It’s surprising for me here,” Mahan said about the cold conditions. “There’s maybe usually cold mornings, but then it warms up pretty nice. I know it’s going to be kind of chilly for the next few days, but I’ve been in Dallas and went to Aspen for our honeymoon, so we’ve been in cold weather for a bit now, so it’s not a big shock.”

Ogilvy is making his first start of the season after gouging his right index finger on a coral reef in Hawaii before the Tournament of Champions. The Australian needed 12 stitches to repair the cut to the side of his knuckle.

“It’s in a very annoying spot for a right-handed golfer,” Ogilvy said. “It’s right where the club hits the thing. ... I’ve been hitting balls the last two or three days and it feels like I’m hitting it like I was when I arrived in Hawaii.”

Watson and fellow 2011 tour winners Watson, Jonathan Byrd, Mark Wilson and Jhonattan Vegas are in the field along with Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, three-time champion Mark Calcavecchia and two-time winners J.B. Holmes and Vijay Singh.

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