Tiger Triumphant at Kingston Heath Australian Masters 2009
"I've never won down here, so now I have won on every continent, except for Antarctica" - Tiger Woods, Kingston Heath 2009.
At Victorian sandbelt course Kingston Heath on Sunday 15th November, the final round began in a sweltering, dusty and thirsty environment. My partner and I perched upon a not-so-grassy knoll at the 1st hole to witness the tee shot of the world's number 1 golfer, Tiger Woods.
The day began with an accidental breach of security - my partner and I wandered past three security guards and almost stumbled on to Tiger's range session. It was only when I caught a glimpse of the famous final day red shirt and a security guard asked us did we have our IDs, that I realised that we were on the other side of the fence and in player's territory.
The excitement was building even before we reached the course itself. On the shuttle bus we downed a 2 litre bottle of water to ensure the proper hydration for the day. During a quiet moment a man with one of the loudest voices I've ever heard yelled:
"Do you know what time it is?"
Curious people turned to look.
"IT'S TIGER TIME!!!" The whole bus broke into laughter and in a moment of comic relief we realised just how excited we were to be seeing Tiger on the final day.
After following the field for a time, we grabbed some (incredibly overpriced) lunch and proceeded to the 6th hole where we were ready to shade ourselves for a while. Then we looked towards the 5th at what appeared to be a million colourful ants headed our way.
"What are those crowds doing?"
"Oh sh!t! He's here already." We scrambled into position as the hordes mustered in.
A young boy sat at our feet and kept voicing that he wanted to say something to Tiger.
When Tiger walked past, only a couple of feet away, the boy worked up the courage and said "You're a Gun Tiger!"
Tiger stopped for a moment, turned around, smiled and said "Thank You" before making his way to the tee. This is the type of memory that will remain long after the tournament is over.
Greg Chalmers (AUS), Francois Delamontagne (FRA) Jason Dufner (USA) and James Nitties (AUS) were snapping at Tiger's heels for a large part of the tournament. At the 14th, Chalmers was set to take the lead. We revelled in the brilliant display of skill and accuracy by these incredible players, and cheered them on - if Tiger was to be beaten, it would be fitting for an Australian to do it.
We began to get slightly sunburned - making our way to the 16th we were rewarded with both shade and solitude. From our perfect vantage point we watched a parade of golfers, Adam Scott, Rod Pampling, Stuart Appleby, and after checking the scoreboard, we saw that Tiger was -14 and looking good for the win. When Tiger appeared, the galleries were bursting with people, yet we had the perfect view and very little crowd around us. We were close enough to see Tiger brush away a fly, re-compose himself and hit one of the most awesome shots I have seen in my life. The ball landed on the green so perfectly it nearly went in the hole. It was awe-inspiring. Needless to say, we made some noise.
When we gathered round the green to watch the putt, a little boy sitting on his mother's shoulders stared at the players, open mouthed in awe and wonderment. He kept repeating the same thing over and over. "Tiiiger Wooods." The crowd started to giggle after a while as the boy repeated it for the 10th time. Then he got a quizzical look on his face as Tiger stalked the putt and lined it up from every angle.
"Is he gonna hit the ball?" The setup phase was obviously getting to him.
It was not until the very last hole that Tiger could relax. As we know, anything can happen in golf. Woods approached the 18th, made a 2 putt and sealed the tournament win to yet another colossal roar from the crowd. We witnessed the gold jacket and trophy presentation, surrounded by thousands of people. Last year we watched Rod Pampling receive the same accolades to a largely empty stand. It is expected that the new surge of enthusiasm for Australian golf spurned by the worldwide publicity will lead to larger galleries at all Australian golf tournaments. Players such as Rod Pampling, Robert Allenby, Karrie Webb and many other noteworthy Australian golfers deserve more publicity and greater accolades in their home country - perhaps this will be the start of a new era in Australian golf.
For some, this was their first experience of a golf tournament, the spectacle of Tiger Woods and curiosity taking them into new territory. The tournament was a great promotional tool for Victoria, for Melbourne, and for Australian Golf. It is easy to forget that throughout the ages Kingston Heath has been host to a number of legends, including Greg Norman, Severiano Ballesteros, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Gary Player. It would be a magical touch to begin a tradition of hosting the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath every year, as they do with the US Masters in Augusta.
Tiger won with a final score of -14, followed by Greg Chalmers at -12 and Francois Delamontagne at -10.
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