(Reuters) - Mother Nature again turned nasty at the PGA Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Sunday, forcing play to be abandoned for a third consecutive day due to strong gusting winds.
A little more than an hour of the already long-delayed first round was possible before officials halted the action at the Kapalua Resort, scrapping the scores and aiming for a Tuesday finish to an event trimmed to 54 holes.
Thirty-six holes are planned for Monday with a two-tee start for the 30-man, winners-only field, followed by 18 holes the following day.
"We tried," Slugger White, the PGA Tour's vice president of rules and competition, told reporters. "We were on the edge when we started out at 11:10 and we were probably okay for about 30-45 minutes.
"And then the bottom fell out. We were having gusts out there of about 48 miles per hour. Balls were blowing off the green and we couldn't even get a ball to come to rest on the 12th green when we stopped.
"It started off bad and got worse. We washed the round out today and we're going to try again."
As high winds continued to batter the Hawaiian island of Maui, chaotic scenes were the order of the day after Rickie Fowler struck the first shot in the re-scheduled opening round when he teed off at the par-four first.
Fellow American Matt Kuchar, who hit the first shot on the 10th hole, had a lengthy conversation with rules officials after his ball was twice blown off his tee before he eventually set off.
Scott Stallings was not quick enough to mark a one-foot putt at the 12th before his ball was blown seven feet away. His cap followed suit soon after.
WATCHED IN SHOCK
Fellow American Ben Curtis reached the green in regulation at both the 10th and 11th but completed those holes in a combined five over par. He had watched in shock as his ball, after settling, was blown off the back of the 11th green.
Englishman Ian Poulter, Kuchar's playing partner, tweeted: "Well we tried to get it done even if it took a while over shots today as the balls were moving. No one likes penalty shots for no reason."
Before teeing off, Poulter had told Golf Channel: "This is going to be crazy golf. You've just got to suck it up."
Jason Dufner was the early leader at one under after five holes with compatriots Fowler and Kuchar (also after five holes) among a group of 12 players knotted at level par when play was suspended.
Plans to play 36 holes on Sunday were swiftly dashed when the re-start of the opening round was pushed back four hours as winds continued to gust well above 40mph across the Plantation Course.
The PGA Tour's season-opening event had already been cut to 54 holes because of unplayable conditions over the first two days, forcing officials to prepare for a Tuesday finish.
"You just can't play in this," said White. "You can hardly walk in it, much less play golf.
"We're going to go off in split tees tomorrow from 7.10 local (1730 GMT) and try to play 36 holes tomorrow, finish early Tuesday morning for a 54-hole event."
Should poor weather conditions lead to the tournament being further trimmed to 36 holes, the eventual champion would wind up with an "unofficial win", officials said.
The last time a PGA Tour event was cut to 36 holes was in 2005 when Australia's Adam Scott won the rain-hit Northern Trust Open.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)