Tiger fever sweeps Australia

MELBOURNE - Tiger Woods was left stunned here yesterday after Australian fans and media gave golf's world No 1 a rapturous welcome ahead of his first tournament appearance Down Under for 11 years.

MELBOURNE - Tiger Woods was left stunned here yesterday after Australian fans and media gave golf's world No 1 a rapturous welcome ahead of his first tournament appearance Down Under for 11 years.

Thousands of fans turned out to watch Woods practice at the Kingston Heath course in the lead-up to tomorrow's European Tour co-sanctioned Australian Masters, while television helicopters recorded his every move.

"No, it's not normal. Trust me, it's not. Thank God it's not normal," Woods said when asked if the reception he had received in famously sports-loving Australia was par for the course.

"You don't normally see many people at a practice round certainly, maybe at a major championship you might see this many people.

"I've never experienced the helicopters before, they were overhead but they didn't interfere with my play."

Tournament organisers paid a reported R22,4million to lure the 14-time major winner to Melbourne, and the investment appears to have already paid huge dividends.

Huge galleries not seen since the heyday of local golfing idol Greg Norman in the 1980s are expected to follow Woods this week and media interest has been intense. Such is the clamour to see Woods play this week that all 25000 tickets for each of the four days were snapped up early last month. - Sapa-AFP

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