TIger feels the heat in Melbourne
Tiger Woods described conditions as “hot as hell” after playing just nine holes of a practice round ahead of the JBWere Masters.
Tiger Woods only played the back nine at Kingston Heath on Tuesday morning and, afterwards, wasn’t letting on whether that was all he needed or whether it was all he could cope with in conditions that were “as hot as hell”.
A gallery of around 7,000 shadowed Woods and playing partner Craig Parry during the practice round, and there was a collective groan when the world number one retired early to the sanctuary of the clubhouse, his lime green shirt saturated with sweat from Melbourne temperatures which had soared into the mid-30s by mid-morning.
Woods is a short-priced favourite for the 2009 Australian Masters, which is being contested at the ‘Heath’ for the first time.
But he appreciates that having only two days to acclimatise and adjust to the nuances of a course he’d never played before puts him at a distinct disadvantage.
“I haven’t played here, and trying to learn the angles and trying to learn the greens and where to miss the golf ball, that’s the biggest thing in any golf course you play,” said Woods.
“To learn where to miss it to give yourself the best angle and best place to score from, I’ll be learning that today and tomorrow and that will certainly be key.
“A lot of the guys who have played here haven’t played here with no wind, and if the forecast holds up, it will be interesting on the weekend when the wind blows.”
Woods said he was amazed by the size of Tuesday’s gallery. Only at a major, he said, would he expect so many fans to turn up for a practice round.
He was thankful to Parry for his insights, and to 1991 British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch who walked the course with the pair this morning, for his tips on how best to approach the par-72, 6455-metre layout.
Woods said he would be relying also on the advice of his caddie Steve Williams who carried Greg Norman’s bag during the Shark’s many successful forays to the sandbelt in the ’80s.
“You have to shape the ball around this golf course, you have to be able to think and that’s one of the reasons I love playing links golf,” said Woods.
“It’s hot as hell, that part’s different and the greens are much faster here than they are for the (British) Open championship, but it’s the same type of golf.
“I’ll play all 18 tomorrow in the pro-am and have a better understating of the game plan and obviously the angles off the tees and where I need to place it hitting into the greens.
“It’s an unbelievable golf course … the bunkering is just phenomenal, you don’t get to see bunkering like this in any other place in the world.
“I’ve always loved coming down here and playing these (sandbelt) golf courses, it’s a treat.
“You don’t need a golf course to be 75 hundred yards for it to be hard – you can build it just like this and have it nice and tricky – it’s just a treat to play.”
Woods agreed that he’ll need to swing and putt better than he did on the final day in Shanghai last Sunday when a disastrous front nine condemned him to sixth place in the HSBC Champions event behind arch rival Phil Mickelson.
“Days like that happen and, unfortunately, it happened to me on a Sunday when I had a chance to win a tournament,” he said.
“It’s just one of those things where you just go ahead and move on.
“I didn’t feel like I was playing poorly going into that day, I just got off to a terrible start and got it back at the end but it was too late by then.”
Asked how he might reflect in future years on a ‘major-free’ 2009, Woods said: “You learn from it.
“I gave myself a chance in three of the four championships to win it, and I didn’t.
“Jack (Nicklaus) finished second (in majors) 19 times, so obviously you’re not going to win all of them, but the whole idea is to give yourself a chance in every one and I did that in three of the four.”
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