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April 04, 2012

Storms soften Augusta National and inflict minor damage

Posted at 9:57 AM by Gary Van Sickle | Categories: Augusta National, Masters, Phil Mickelson

TreeAUGUSTA, Ga.--With apologies to the hackneyed author known as Snoopy, it was a dark and stormy night at Augusta National.

The weather was bad enough that even jaded golf writers were tweeting about the heavy rain, high winds, hail and extreme thunder and lightning. Due to on-course damage at Augusta National, Wednesday morning's opening of the gates to fans was delayed 40 minutes.

Phil Mickelson, he who knows all or is pretty sure he does, talked about the possibility of storms during his Tuesday confab with writers. He said if the course got as much rain as predicted, the greens would be softened and the tournament would turn into "a birdie-fest."

The storms hit just before midnight and included winds measured at up to 60 miles per hour. There was an unconfirmed report Wednesday morning from Augusta.com that damage at Augusta National included a bathroom facility near the 16th hole, which was flattened by a large oak tree felled by the storm. An inch and a half of rain fell in the area.

Wednesday morning's conditions were in stark contrast to the storm. There was hanging mist and moist fog early, which was quickly burned off. It's a bright, sunny morning but may not stay that way. The forecast calls for more clouds this afternoon with a chance of isolated thunderstorms after 3 p.m. Another storm front will go through Thursday, when there is a 70 percent chance of more rain. The area's heat wave will officially break by Friday, when there is a 60 percent chance of rain and a forecast for high temperature of only 65 degrees.

What it means for the Masters is that the course will play long. The medium-length hitters won't be reaching the par-5 holes in two. Even with Augusta National's high-tech and sophisticated underground drainage, the greens should be soft and receptive into the weekend. So Mickelson may be proven right about his birdie-fest prediction. The conditions would seem to favor the long hitters, who get more carry with their drives, since balls won't be rolling out very far. Damp conditions may even slow the greens somewhat, taking the edge off the often scary, sloping putts that are so common here.

Bottom line for fantasy league players: jettison your short-hitting finesse players and load up on power hitters.

(Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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