Hazardous smog hits Australian Open golf
Golf Australia plans to bolster on-site medical staff if Sydney's fire-driven smog continues to disrupt this week's Australian Open.
GA boss Stephen Pitt admitted the hazardous haze above The Australian Golf Club on Tuesday had presented unusual challenges with at least one player preparing for the All Abilities event reporting breathing difficulties.
While Pitt is confident the Open will proceed without any smoky delays, officials will closely monitor the weather with children and elderly spectators most susceptible to the threatening air quality.
"Firstly our issues with smoke at a golf tournament pale into insignificance with the things that home owners and property owners and people right around the country have dealt with," Pitt said.
"So we're very aware of that fact and all our sympathies and thoughts go to them because that's the real issue.
"For us, this week has been a little bit different the first couple of days. It's something we've never had to give consideration to before - we've had storms and rain and hail and heat and cold and all those sort of things that are your typical gold tournament issues.
"But this one is new and we have been in constant contact with the Bureau of Meteorology and the outlook is fairly optimistic."
Pitt said Tuesday's poor conditions during practice were largely due to a westerly wind.
"And I believe that's the worst wind we can get in terms of smoke but that is due to change this evening," he said.
"There's southerlies and then potentially a north-easterly that will come in. They will clear the area, which is not just good news for us but also for the people of Sydney and surrounding areas.
"But it is a situation we will continue to monitor."
Already some spectators have been spotted in smog masks.
Pitt said the Open was already well-covered with St John Ambulance representatives but more assistance would be sought if needed.
Any stoppage after the tournament starts wouldn't be unprecedented, with last month's Indian Open postponed due to air pollution, prompting Australian touring professional Jason Norris to post a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a surgical mask.
"We've been postponed on the course many times but never due to pollution. There's a first for everything," Norris said.