Security Tight as Tiger Plays Disney

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Per usual, Tiger Woods beat the sun to work Wednesday morning, teeing off in the dark on a chilly central Florida morning.
 
He breezed through 18 holes at the Magnolia course ' host of this weeks National Car Rental Golf Classic in Lake Buena Vista ' alongside fellow Windermere residents John Cook and Mark OMeara, and then spent a solid 15 minutes obliging the media.
 
Yet there was something atypical about Tigers practice round. There was something missing ' a crowd.
 
Tournament officials didnt allow spectators to follow Woods on Wednesday. Tickets are only valid Thursday through Sunday; that has recently been the case in this event, though in the past, fans who showed up for a practice round were allowed to follow the players.
 
'In previous years, the practice rounds have been available for public viewing at no cost,' said Tournament Director Kevin Weickel. 'The number of guests who have watched practice rounds has been limited to around 50 guests per year.
 
In light of the events of Sept. 11, we are trying to provide a safe environment for everybody.'
 
It was the first time Woods could remember playing publicly in such anonymity.
 
It was definitely different, it was quiet. I liked it, said Woods.
 
Golf, like every other aspect of professional life, is experiencing an increase in security since Sept. 11. Men in blue outfits with badges are omnipresent. All bags are checked, even those of the players.
 
Earlier in the week, a couple of players forgot their Tour identification clips and werent allowed access to the locker room.
 
Wednesday, Woods exited the parking lot and showed security his driver's license. They then asked for his Tour badge. He didn't have it. Eventually, they let him pass.
 
These particular precautions are a bit new to Woods, though hes experienced a heighten awareness around him for years.
 
Ive had to deal with this ever since I turned pro. Its something Ive just become accustomed to, Woods said.
 
But there are still concerns.
 
In golf, its probably the most accessible sport there is. If someone wants to do something, they can,' Woods said. 'The galleries are right next to you. Thats one of the things we pride ourselves on in our sport, is the accessibility to it. But, then again, thats one of the dangers of it, too.
 
Tiger is making his first start since the Bell Canadian Open, six weeks ago. It wasnt supposed to be this way, but after the terrorist attacks everything changed.
 
It changed your perspective on how life is viewed, he said. You appreciate absolutely every aspect of your life.
 
For Tiger, there was no WGC-American Express Championship. No trip to Paris for the Trophee Lancome. No Ryder Cup. No golf.
 
Instead, he got some rest, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and even had a good conversation with the only other athlete to rival his celebrity ' Michael Jordan. He didnt start practicing until two weeks ago.
 
Its nice to be able to take a nice long break, said Woods. It worked out best for me, time to rest up physically, mentally and just try to get things back in order.
 
And so hes back to work. Hell play the Tour Championship in Houston in two weeks. Hell then travel to Hong Kong for an exhibition, before making his way to Japan to defend his World Cup title with partner David Duval.
 
Traveling abroad is still a risky proposition ' though it helps to have a personal jet at your leisure. Yet at some point, apprehension has to give way to routine.
 
In January, Woods will play in the New Zealand Open ' the homeland of his caddie, Steve Williams.
 
Williams is currently in New Zealand, opening a new racetrack; therefore, Woods has employed collegiate teammate Jerry Chang on his bag. Chang has played with Woods in the past couple AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Ams. And Woods even looped for his Stanford buddy in this years Public Links Championship.
 
In 1999, Woods won the Buick Invitational with former schoolmate Brian Bell as his caddie.
 
This is a very comfortable event for Woods. He commutes to the course from his home. He won here in his rookie season of 1996, and again in 99.
 
Now, he just has to shake off the rust and find the form that has led to five PGA Tour victories this season and over $5.5 million in earnings.
 
Im a pretty good practice-round player, he joked. Will it correlate into hitting it well in the tournament? I dont know.
 
Woods tees off Thursday with OMeara at 8:30 a.m. ET on the Palm course. Hell then play the Magnolia course Friday at 12:40 p.m.
 
The Magnolia will be the sole venue over the weekend.
 
There are 144 players in the field, with 144 amateurs. The amateurs will compete in the first two rounds. A cut (low 70 and ties) will be made for the professionals after the second round. The winner will collect $612,000.
 
Full field and tee times for the NCR Walt Disney Classic