Opening Senior round canceled

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Tom Purtzer briefly grabbed the lead Friday in his Senior PGA Tour debut, but heavy rain washed out his score and forced officials to cut the Royal Caribbean Classic to 36 holes.

Senior Tour rules state that every player in the field must complete at least nine holes in a round to make it official. That did not come close to happening Friday and the round was scrapped.


Of the 78 players entered, none completed the round and nine never even got started.

"I didn't know what the rule is out here," said Purzter, who was 4-under through 13 holes and a shot ahead of three players when play was stopped.

A series of heavy thunderstorms dumped more than an inch of rain on the Crandon Park Golf Club, making it unplayable.

"Given the conditions, there's no way that all 78 players could complete the nine holes required to make the round official," said Gene Smith, the tour's assistant tournament director.

Purtzer birdied Nos. 2-4 in dry conditions and played the next nine holes in 1-under before the round was stopped with him at the par-5 14th.


"It came down hard for about 15 minutes," he said. "That probably took a number of the greens over the edge."

Purtzer is nearly two months removed from his 50th birthday. He won five PGA Tour titles but is winless since 1991 and was looking forward to joining the elder circuit.

"I've been getting geared up for this since December," he said. "I was nervous starting out, but two birdies in the first three holes really helped. At least I have some confidence now."

The same could not be said for Fuzzy Zoeller, whose Senior Tour debut was more publicized than Purtzer's. The former Masters champion battled the first 13 holes in even par.

Bruce Fleisher, the 1999 Rookie and Player of the Year, played 10 holes in 3-under before play was halted.

"I would have liked to have finished, but what can you do? Let the flowers grow," he said.

Fleisher earned $1.7 million in 408 events during his PGA Tour career but has won more than $9 million in three years on the Senior Tour. He claimed three titles last season, including the U.S. Senior Open.

Six players were tied for fifth at 2-under, including Australian Rodger Davis, who was out in the first group of the day and managed to finish 17 holes.


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