Sydney smoke disrupts first round of Australian Open


Players and officials have complained of “stinging” and “burning” eyes after toxic smoke from bush fires blighted the start of the Australian Open.

Sydney’s air quality index registered levels of pollutants which were on par with Beijing during the first round, and forced New Zealander Ryan Chisnall, who is asthmatic, to borrow a face mask from a spectator.

Adam Scott, who will play in the Presidents Cup next week at Royal Melbourne, admitted he was considering donning a surgical mask ahead of the second round unless conditions improve.

“(The smoke) got pretty thick for a while, it still is. It's not great,” said the former World No.1, who struggled to a four-over 75.

I was joking that I need to cleanse, but it feels like I should shove a bit of salt water up my nose or something. Obviously not the conditions we want to be playing in. You kind of hope for rain.” 

Matt Jones, who won the flagship event on the PGA Tour of Australasia in 2015, described the conditions as some of the worst he had experienced in his career.

“It's tough to see your golf ball when you're out there playing, where it finishes. Your eyes do burn. I’ve got that cough like you’ve got something in your lungs, phlegm in your lungs or whatever, but it’s not fun. I hope my kids are inside in the hotel room.”

Asian amateurs Takumi Kanaya and Yu Chun-an led on six-under-par after day one, with Paul Casey, the highest-ranked player in the field, three off the pace following a 68.

The Englishman said: “I must admit my eyes are stinging but you know I honestly feel for the people [nearer the fires], because we're feeling it down here 100 [miles] away. I'm not going to complain because there's people in a way worse position than me.”

St John Ambulance officials reported one asthma attack and fans complaining of sore throats, stinging eyes and wheeziness after a blanket of smug shrouded the course at The Australian Golf Club, just five miles from the heart of Sydney’s central business district.

Currently, there are around 25 bush and grass fires burning across New South Wales state, with high winds blowing smoke over Sydney.

Golf Australia revealed on Tuesday that it planned to increase on-site medical staff if the smoky hazy disrupted the tournament.