Tiger’s roar makes a statement
Tiger Woods has made a huge statement with his opening 66 at the JBWere Masters at Kingston Heath in Melbourne.
World number one Tiger Woods has made a huge statement on the opening day of the JBWere Masters at Kingston Heath, tearing up the sandbelt course with a six-under 66 to sit level with Australia’s James Nitties and 21-year-old South African Branden Grace.
Stalked by a dedicated gallery that started at around 10,000 and swelled to almost double that size as the morning advanced, Woods fired seven birdies and one bogey to set a mark that was matched by two others who ere able to take advantage of the benign morning conditions.
Those who teed off in the afternoon were subject to increased winds and only a handful of them looked like challenging the early front-runners.
Mathew Goggin was the best of them, finishing on four-under.
In all, 21,356 fans turned up for the opening day, a big vindication of the decision to lure Woods to the tournament. And Woods rewarded the fans with a sparkling first-ever competitive round around Kingston Heath.
Woods, who started from the 10th, picked up two shots thanks to birdies on both of the par-fives on his outward nine to turn in 34 before scorching home in 32 which included a hat-trick of birdies at six, seven and eight.
His one blemish came at his closing hole, the 9th, where he pulled his drive into a tea tree on the left and had to settle for bogey.
“We can’t believe how soft the greens were today,” said Woods.
“I know they’re trying to protect them from the heat and the wind that’s expected but we were pretty surprised.”
“Balls were backing up and that’s pretty different around this golf course.”
“The wind wasn’t really blowing and the greens were soft so we could be pretty aggressive firing at them.”
Grace, whose best finish on the European Tour this season has been a sixth in the South African Open last December, only entered the tournament in a last ditch bid to save his card on the European Tour where he sits in 149th place. He got to seven-under before dropping a shot at 17 for his 66.
“I played really solidly today and just really enjoyed it out there. My caddy kept me really calm out there which was a huge help. It is just nice to be playing in Australia and playing on such an unbelievable course,” Grace said.
“I’m not sure where I have to finish here to keep my status on the European Tour but I think it is about Top 3 on my own, or maybe tied. That was one of my goals coming into the tournament.”
Nitties, who came into this tournament as a long shot following a solid debut season on the US PGA Tour, used his local knowledge to advantage in constructing a bogey-free round, the highlight of which was an eagle at the 516-metre, par-four 15th.
Melbourne’s Cameron Percy, who’s returned home on a high after securing his card for next season’s US PGA Tour courtesy of his eighth-placing on the Nationwide Tour money list, is one shot off the pace after signing for a 67 as is New Zealand’s Doug Holloway, who had bogey-free round.
Goggin joined West Australian Greg Chalmers and Victorian Peter Nolan, who both enjoyed early starts with 68s while six players, Englishman Lee Slattery and Australians Damien Jordan, Rohan Blizard, Rick Kulacz, Stuart Appleby and Ashley Hall finished with three-under 69s.
Last year’s winner Rod Pampling, who along with Craig Parry (-2) partnered Woods, finished with a 71.
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