MELBOURNE: Tiger Woods sent an ominous shiver through his rivals as he reeled off a birdie-laden opening to the Australian Masters today.
The world No 1 sank seven birdies before he stuttered to a last-hole bogey to finish with a six-under 66 and share the tournament lead with young South African Branden Grace and Australian James Nitties. The 14-time major champion was closing in on the Kingston Heath course record of eight-under 64 at seven-under coming to the last hole, only to pull his tee shot into the fairway rough and go on to make a bogey.
Yet in his first tournament round in Australia for 11 years, the American golfing wonder underlined how hard he will be to beat for Sunday's golden jacket and his 93rd title. Woods claimed his first birdie at the 525-metre par-five 12th where he came out of a greenside bunker to within three metres of the pin and holed the putt. He missed an eagle putt at the 14th and tapped in for a birdie four to reach the turn at two under.
Woods began his journey by slamming a 200 metre-long iron to the front of the first green and missed another eagle putt by centimetres to pick up his third shot in 10 holes. He then went on a run of four birdies in five holes before his final hole hiccup.