Woods bemused by warm Australian reception
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-11 11:27

MELBOURNE: Thousands of fans and a media circus worthy of a head of state greeted Tiger Woods at Melbourne's Kingston Heath golf club yesterday, as the world No 1 made his first visit to Australia in 11 years.

Woods bemused by warm Australian reception
Tiger Woods of the U.S. watches the ball during a practice session ahead of this week's Australian Masters golf tournament in Melbourne November 10, 2009. [Agencies] 

Woods, who arrived by private jet in Melbourne on Monday, tuned up for this week's A$1.5 million ($1.40 million) Masters with a nine-hole practise round in front of throngs of spectators and a low-flying helicopter scanning his every move.

"No, (this reception) is not normal. No, I pray to God it's not normal," the 14-time major champion said.

"You don't normally see this many people at a practise round, certainly, maybe at a major championship."

Woods's first tournament in Australia since the 1998 Presidents Cup in Melbourne, has been seen as a watershed for a tour that has struggled to provide purses and appearance fees large enough to attract the biggest names.

The state government of Victoria, which local media has reported paid half of Woods' $3 million appearance fee, had branded his appearance a coup and said the visit would generate an economic benefit of A$19 million.

Woods's delay in heading back to Australia was a matter of "timing" rather than financial incentives, the 33-year-old said.

"There are so many golf tournaments to play all around the world. I just haven't got down here," he said.

"You don't get a chance to play in venues like this and it is really a treat to play the sand-belt golf courses.

"You have so many different options. You have to be able to shape the ball around the golf course. You have to be able to think.

"It's one of the reasons I love playing links golf. It's the same, the only difference here is well, it's hot as hell."

Woods will vie for a first victory on Australian soil with former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy among a strong local contingent for a winner's cheque worth less than a tenth of his appearance fee.