Storms halt Masters practice

US Masters (AFP)
US Masters (AFP)

Augusta - Severe storms have halted practice for the 78th Masters on Monday and forced spectators to be cleared from Augusta National as a safety precaution.

The course was not expected to reopen due to thunderstorms that were expected to linger in the area for the remainder of the day.

Those who bought practice round tickets will be sent refunds next month and assured of the chance of buying practice round tickets to next year's Masters, according to a statement from the club.

"We are disappointed that our patrons could not enjoy today's practice round, however safety must be our first concern," said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne.

About 30 players had started practice rounds in the two hours of availability under cold, overcast and damp conditions before the course was closed.

Weather is expected to improve throughout the week, with forecasts for clear conditions from Thursday's start of the year's first major golf championship to the finish on Sunday.

That figures to toughen the now-damp greens, making the undulating putting surfaces harder and faster when players compete for the coveted green jacket symbolic of Masters supremacy.

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