The Asian Tour's Panasonic Open in India was delayed on Thursday, with the first round held up for five hours due to air pollution.
Play was suspended until 11 a.m. local time on Thursday at Classic Golf and Country Club in Guragon, with hazardous levels of pollution making it unhealthy to be outside and visibility limited with the smog. Officially, the Asian Tour said the delay was due to "weather and visibility conditions."
When play got underway, the Asian Tour used a four-tee start to complete the first round for the originally scheduled morning wave of tee times. Ittiphat Buranathanyarat of Thailand shot 8-under 64 to take the lead near India's capital of Delhi.
"Today’s one of those rare occasions where I played in a four-tee start," said Buranathanyarat. "But it was okay. I just needed to wear a mask ,and, apart from that, it was business as usual. There was a long wait, and it was almost after four hours that I got to tee off. I fell asleep once during that wait."
Despite getting the green light to play, Buranathanyarat said visibility remained a problem because of his vision.
"I couldn’t really see where the ball was beyond 250 yards as I’m short-sighted, so I had to rely on my caddie’s advice," he said. "But overall, it was OK. I managed to play well despite everything and I’m very proud of myself."
India's Shiv Kapur treated the delay like a weather-related problem.
"Mental adjustment after long wait in the morning uncertain start: Obviously unnerving, but don’t think it’s the first time this has happened," Kapur said after shooting 67. "Have played golf enough to know this can happen, like the Singapore Open where you do a lot of sitting around or the Maybank when there is a lot of waiting during the rain delays so it’s kind of similar."
According to AFP, the amount of PM2.5, deadly tiny particles that get into the bloodstream and lungs, in the air was approximately 20 times the safe limit set indicated by the World Health Organization. In Delhi, schools were closed, car traffic was limited based on registration numbers, and construction was ordered stopped.
There is a possibility the tournament will need to be shortened, officials said, recognizing the pollution could pose more problems throughout the weekend.