By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AUGUSTA, Georgia, April 7 - Only two hours of Masters practice was possible on Monday before play was called off due to the threat of lightning, but Jim Furyk saw that as a potential advantage in what was always going to be a long week.
With light rain falling and thunderous clouds gathering overhead at Augusta National, the siren sounded at 10 a.m. ET, sending the players and spectators scurrying off the course.
However, the weather forecast is much more favorable for the rest of the week and PGA Tour veteran Furyk felt Monday's early finish could benefit his fellow players, especially those making their debuts in the year's opening major championship.
"All this rain will help them (Masters first-timers) a little bit in pacing themselves and not playing too many practice rounds, getting a day where they kind of get to take a breather," American Furyk, 43, told reporters.
"You're just so excited to be here and want to learn about the golf course, but by the time Thursday comes around (for the first round), you're already somewhat worn out. By Sunday, you're running on fumes.
"It (the weather suspension) will make some is of the younger players anxious, but most of those ... they have already been up here and seen the golf course. In the long run, it could be a good thing to have half a day off."
With a 90 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms forecast for Monday at Augusta National, Furyk and his peers made sure they arrived at the course early to cram in some practice.
"I arrived at about 7:45 and was probably on the range before 8:15," smiled Furyk, a 16-times winner on the PGA Tour who played in his first Masters in 1996 and finished in a tie for 29th.
"The place was packed which you don't usually see on Monday morning here. I think everyone read the weather report and tried to get some in today.
"The weather the rest of the week is supposed to be nice, so I see it firming up, getting a little faster every day and they get it where they want it by the weekend," added Furyk whose best Masters finish was fourth place, in both 1998 and 2003.
Augusta National's par-72 layout has one notable change this year with the famed Eisenhower Tree no longer gracing the par-four 17th hole after being damaged by an ice storm in February.
The tree, a loblolly pine believed to be at least 100 years old, had to be removed from its position on the 17th fairway, some 210 yards from the tee, but it will not be sadly missed by Furyk.
"I hit that darned thing a lot," grinned Furyk, whose only major victory came at the 2003 U.S. Open. "When I first started playing here in '96, that tree was much shorter and much closer to the tee, and I hit that tree; it was a really bad shot for one of the Tour professionals.
"Once that tee moved farther back and that tree grew, I had a very hard time hitting it over it with the length that I hit it. I needed to kind of work it around it or up the right side of the fairway.
"I've tried to hit it high and hard over that thing and caught it. I've tried to work around it and tugged it a little bit and caught it. The history of the tree will be missed and there's a lot of lore there, but my game definitely won't miss it that much."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)