World Number One Tiger Woods has torn Kingston Heath to shreds in his first competitive round at Melbourne's famed sandbelt layout to seize a share of the clubhouse lead midway through the opening day's proceedings of the 2009 JBWere Masters.
Stalked by a dedicated gallery that started at around 10,000 and swelled to almost double that size as the morning advanced, Woods fired a sensational six under 66, a benchmark that was later matched by Australia's James Nitties and 21-year-old South African Branden Grace.
Those who have teed off in the afternoon have struggled to match the hot pace set by those in the morning. Australia's Rick Kulacz is the best of them at four under through 11, while Stuart Appleby, Manny Villegas and Michael Light are at three under during their opening rounds.
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 hattrick of birdies at six, seven and eight.
His one blemish came at his closing hole, the ninth, where he pulled his drive into the 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 with 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 into the greens."
Fans with eyes only for Tiger were lined up five deep along the length of the long par four tenth as Woods commenced his round on the stroke of 7.30am local time with a thumping drive that split the fairway.
Those who were denied a vantage point at ten took position on the 11th and 12th in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the World Number One and playing partners Rod Pampling, who finished with a 71, and Craig Parry (70) on their way through.
Woods said the gallery's conduct, with only the odd exception, was exemplary.
"I think the people were extremely respectful and they were trying to police themselves, which was great - you don't find that very often," he said.
"The galleries are very knowledgeable and they were trying to help us out with some of the people who were taking pictures."