Date: November 13, 2009

Woods shares Heath lead with Nitties, Grace

World number one Tiger Woods is locked in a three way tie for the lead with Aussie young gun James Nitties and South African Branden Grace after the trio fired an impressive six under 66 in the opening round of the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath Golf Club. Woods tore up the course in his first competitive round at the famed Sandbelt Course setting the early pace after teeing off at 7.30am from the tenth tee with playing partners Craig Parry and defending champion Rod Pampling. Flanked by a gallery that quickly doubled from the initial 10,000 dedicated fans, the 14 time Major Champion picked up birdies at the 12th and 14th coming home with another five on his back nine with his only blemish a bogey on 18 (the 9th). We just couldn’t believe how soft the greens were today , said Woods. I know they are trying to protect them with the heat and the wind and that s expected but we were pretty surprised. The wind wasn t really blowing and the greens were soft so we could be pretty aggressive into the greens. Balls were backing up and that s pretty different around this golf course. Flanked by besotted fans Woods was once again complimentary of the Australian galleries. I think the people were extremely respectful and they were trying to police themselves, which was great. You don t find that very often. The galleries are very knowledgeable. Melbourne-born-Nova-Castrian Nitties, who has had a solid year on the USPGA Tour as a 2009 rookie used his local knowledge on his way to a bogey free round, the highlight an eagle at the 516 metre par four, 15th. I love Kingston. It&aposs in the best shape that I&aposve seen it. I&aposve only played about 10 total rounds here, but it&aposs awesome. It&aposs really a pleasure to play, said Nitties. I&aposve been a bit rusty. I&aposve played once in the last five weeks, so for me to just come out and hit some half decent shots was my goal. Twenty one year South African Branden Grace was the surprise packet today with the little known European Tour player only entering the tournament in a last ditch attempt to regain his European Tour card where he sits in 149th place (the top 115 get their cards). In just his second sojourn Down Under and his first visit to Melbourne, Grace revealed that he most likely must finish third in the tournament to retain his card but was optimistic following his first round showing, I played really solidly today and just really enjoyed it out there, he said. I was seven under with two to go and had a bogey on 17 which in the end was just really stupid. I was a unlucky on 18 because my shot was inches from the hole which would have had me in the lead but you know I m really happy. I am up there and hopefully I can keep playing that way for the next three rounds. Just one shot behind the leaders after rounds of 67 are Victorian Cameron Percy, who will enjoy his rookie season on the US Tour in 2010 after finishing eighth on the 2009 Nationwide Tour Money List and New Zealand s Doug Holloway with the Aussie trio of Greg Chalmers, Mathew Goggin and Peter Nolan tied for sixth place on four under par. Local favourite Stuart Appleby shot a solid three under par 69 to be three shots off the lead with Craig Parry and Michael Sim on two under, 70 and defending champion Rod Pampling tied for 23rd place alongside Adam Scott with Australia s highest ranked golfer Geoff Ogilvy at even par alongside Marc Leishman and 2004 Australian Masters champion Richard Green. Play resumes tomorrow at 7:30am with the afternoon groups taking to the course at 11:50 featuring Woods, Pampling and Parry at 12:20 starting at the first tee. The Melbourne temperatures are expected to remain warm with temperatures reaching 29C tomorrow with a hotter weekend ahead as temps reach 35C on Saturday. with assistance from PGA Tour Australasia