“THANK GOD IT’S NOT NORMAL,” Tiger Woods said at his Monday press conference in Melbourne. A presser, by the way, that was broadcast live throughout Australia.
Tiger was referring to the 7,000 Australian golf fans who followed him during a practice round in advance of the Australian Masters. TV network helicopters circled above as Tiger and Craig Parry played nine holes. Another oddity: a sold out sign was posted at the ticket booth.
“No one could remember the last time a tournament had no tickets available,” wrote the AP’s Doug Ferguson.
It’s been 11 years since Tiger visited Down Under. The 1998 Presidents Cup, to be exact. He was 22. To Aussies, it must seem like another golf lifetime. The Great White Shark, Greg Norman, defeated Tiger in singles as the International team notched its only win in the event’s history.
Tiger’s arrival in Melbourne on Sunday was like the return of golf’s prodigal son. He was transported by limousine from Essendon Airport and his movements seem to be as secretive and closely guarded as those of heads of state. Security is extremely tight, including double what it would normally be at the Australian Masters. The tournament will be played at Kingston Heath Golf Club. Tiger is fond of the track.
“Unbelievable golf course,” he said.
“I always have been a huge fan of the sandbelt courses. The bunkering is just phenomenal. You never get a chance to see bunkering like this is any other place in the world. You don’t need a golf course that is 7,500 yards for it to be hard. You can build it just like this and have it nice and tricky, and it’s just a treat to play.”
The $3.3 million price tag to bring Tiger to Australia is expected to net $20 million in economic benefits, according to reports I’ve read. The Australian Masters is also expected to attract a global TV audience of 380 million. Not too shabby for mid November.
−The Armchair Golfer
(Image: Keith Allison/Flickr)