Masters first round postponed
AUGUSTA, Ga., April 10 (UPI) -- For the first time since 1939, the first round of the rain-plagued Masters was postponed Thursday.
With the course already waterlogged and the threat of more rain, Masters Competition Committee Chairman Wil Nicholson said an attempt would be made to do something that has never been done in the 67-year history of the event -- play the first two rounds of the tournament in one day.
With forecasts calling for improving weather on Friday and through the weekend, Nicholson said he hoped to be able to complete the Masters on schedule Sunday afternoon. Whatever happens, the tournament will be played to a conclusion.
"We will complete 72 holes, sometime," he said.
Rain began falling in the area Sunday and periodic showers and thunderstorms have hit the Augusta National Golf Club course ever since. Almost four inches have rain have fallen since the slow-moving system arrived and a downpour swept through Augusta in the early morning hours Thursday.
Nicholson, a member of the Augusta National for 30 years, toured the course at dawn Thursday along with officials from the PGA Tour and the European Tour. They all agreed the course, with some work, could be made playable.
It was decided at that time that the 93-man field would be allowed to start play at 11 a.m. EDT and that both the first and tenth tees would be used. The thousands of spectators who were lined up when the gates opened at 8 a.m. were allowed to enter the grounds and preparations were made to start the first major golf championship of the year.
As the morning progressed, however, more rain began appearing on the radar and it seemed clear that the course was going to take on more water. So about 15 minutes before the first ball was to have been struck, Nicholson made the final decision to postpone the first round.
Protesters at Masters change target
ATLANTA, April 10 (UPI) -- The head of a planned Masters protest is aiming at a new target at the all-male Augusta National Golf Club.
Barred by a federal court from picketing the club's main gate during this week's Masters, Martha Burk said she will zero in on corporate members. Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, plans to demonstrate in front of the golf club Saturday.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Wednesday upheld a decision by Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength to restrict protests to a 5-acre field owned by the golf club about one-third of a mile away.
Strength said protests at the club's main gate would be a danger to the public, restrict traffic flow and disturb the peace. Burk has said she has no intention of breaking any laws. But she promised another change.
"Beginning today our campaign moves to a new phase," Burk told reporters during a news conference at the King Center in Atlanta. "We're going to concentrate on those stakeholders, the corporate CEOs who have the power as members. (Club) Chairman Hootie Johnson said yesterday that these CEOs are solidly behind the sex-discriminatory policy," she said.
The women's organization wants the Augusta National Golf Club to review its membership policies and allow women members.
Sale of Sabres approved
BUFFALO, N.Y., April 10 (UPI) -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced approval of the sale of the Buffalo Sabres.
Both the NHL Board of Governors and U.S. Bankruptcy Court had to sign off on the sale before the team could be handed over to billionaire Tom Golisano who reportedly paid more than $80 million, plus future operating losses, for the Sabres.
The 61-year-old Golisano is the founder of Rochester, N.Y.-based Paychex, the nation's second-largest payroll-processing company. He failed last fall in his third bid to become governor of New York.
Former Sabres president Larry Quinn has served as Golisano's point man in the negotiations and said the final step in the sale is a closing, which is expected to take place in the next few days.
Williams talks ongoing at North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C., April 10 (UPI) -- Talks between North Carolina AD Dick Baddour and Kansas Coach Roy Williams likely will continue into the weekend.
Baddour insisted, however, that Williams had yet to be offered the job.
"I have had several very good conversations with Roy Williams over the last two days," Baddour said in a statement released by the athletic department. "Those talks will continue through the weekend. I have not offered the job to coach Williams, but we have had good conversations that will continue over the next few days."
Williams' name immediately surfaced as a candidate at North Carolina, his alma mater, after Matt Doherty resigned as coach last week. In 2000, Williams turned down the North Carolina job before it went to Doherty.
Kansas fired Al Bohl as athletic director on Wednesday in what was viewed as an attempt to get Williams to stay at the school. It has been widely rumored that Williams has been at odds with Bohl and would remain at the school only if Bohl left.
Iverson's Olympic status up in air
NEW YORK, April 10 (UPI) -- There still is no official word about the Olympic status of star guard Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.
In a conference call Thursday, Stu Jackson, the NBA's Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations, and NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik steadfastly denied that a decision about Iverson had been made either way.
Jackson inadvertently said something that could have been construed as the addition of Iverson to Team USA, but was universally denied by NBA executives.
While NBA Commissioner David Stern was answering a question on a different topic, Jackson, in on the teleconference from Portsmouth, Va., where he was attending a pre-draft camp, blurted out, "And AI made it."
When asked about it, Jackson quickly said, "I wasn't referring to anything." Iverson often is referred to by his initials.
Rockies Add Vaughn
DENVER, April 10 (UPI) -- The Colorado Rockies on Thursday signed veteran slugger Greg Vaughn to a minor league contract.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays waived Vaughn on March 22, but he was not claimed due to a $9.25 million salary in 2003 that Tampa Bay is obligated to pay.
The 37-year-old Vaughn has 352 career homers and 1,067 RBI in 13 full major league seasons. He had 95 homers and 237 RBI in 1998 and 1999 for the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds. He was beset by shoulder and leg injuries over the past three seasons in Tampa Bay.
Mack gets chance with Texans
HOUSTON, April 10 (UPI) -- Stacey Mack, who has wanted a chance at becoming a featured back, will get that chance with the Houston Texans.
Houston, trying to improve one of the NFL's worst rushing attacks, has signed Mack for its backfield. Terms were not disclosed.
Mack, 27, spent his previous four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, serving as a valuable backup to the oft-injured Fred Taylor. He played in 15 games last season, carrying 98 times for 436 yards while amassing nine touchdowns for the second straight campaign.
Giants add kicker Mike Hollis
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 10 (UPI) -- The New York Giants Thursday completed their special teams overhaul by adding veteran kicker Mike Hollis.
Hollis has converted 200 of 250 field goal attempts in an eight-year career for an 80 percent rate that is ninth best in NFL history.
New York Coach Jim Fassel made it a priority to address the kicking game after the Giants were plagued by mistakes and breakdowns on special teams during the 2002 season. They previously signed punter Jeff Feagles, long snapper Ryan Kuehl and kick returner Brian Mitchell.
Hollis spent his first seven years with the Jacksonville Jaguars and earned Pro Bowl honors in 1997 after leading the league with 134 points. In eight postseason games, he converted 16 of 18 field goals with a long of 46.