Thousands turn out for Tigers practice round


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)—Thousands of fans lined fairways and TV networkhelicopters circled overhead as Tiger Woods played his first round of golf inAustralia in 11 years Tuesday.

Woods joined Australian veteran Craig Parry for a practice round at theKingston Heath course near Melbourne, site of this week’s Australian Masters.The tournament will be Woods’ fourth in Australia but his first since the 1998Presidents Cup.

“Is it normal? Trust me, it’s not,” Woods told a news conference, whichwas broadcast live around the country. “Thank God it’s not normal!”

Woods also played the 1996 Australian Open and 1997 Australian Masters buthas yet to win in Australia.

He is being paid almost $3 million in fees for his one-off appearance, buthis presence caused tickets to the tournament to sell out within minutes.

Woods landed in Australia Monday in his private jet, flying from Shanghaiwhere he finished sixth at the WGC event during the weekend. His accommodationarrangements and movements while in Australia have been kept a closely guardedsecret.

Some of the fans on the course complained that the whirring of thehelicopters was so loud they couldn’t hear Woods connecting with the ball.

“I’ve never experienced that before,” he said of the helicopters. “Theywere definitely overhead, but they weren’t interfering with play.”

Woods said he was looking forward to taking on one of Melbourne’s sandbeltcourses, which offer similar challenges to playing links golf.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of the sandbelt golf courses,” he said. “Thebunkering is just phenomenal. You don’t get a chance to see bunkering like thisin any other place in the world. So playing these golf courses, it’s a treat.”

Woods said a course didn’t need to be long to be difficult, with trickycourses such as Kingston Heath offering good variety.

“It is what golf is all about. There are so many different options,” hesaid. “You have to be able to shape the ball around the golf course, you haveto be able to think.

“It’s one of the reasons that I love playing links golf, because it’s thesame. The only differences here, one, it’s as hot as hell … but it’s similar,though, similar type of style.”