Tiger in the rough over fee
TIGER Woods flew back to Melbourne yesterday and into a political storm over his bumper $3 million appearance fee.
The superstar's private jet had barely touched down when Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu declared that a Coalition government would not be spending taxpayer money to bring him back for future events.
"He's welcome here and I'm sure he'll be a great asset to the tournament," Mr Baillieu said.
"But I don't think taxpayers need to fund him personally when this is a commercial tournament."
The Brumby Government hit back, warning Sydney was poised to swoop on our major events if Victoria was not prepared to pay stars.
Woods got straight down to business after arriving just after 7am, checking into his palatial Crown casino villa before hitting the hotel gym.
"As soon as I checked in (to Crown), I ran to the gym because I thought he might be there," Mr Piper said.
"He was there with Camilo Villegas and I couldn't believe my luck."
Mr Piper said Woods was pleasant and happily posed for photo.
Tiger was guest of honour last night at a gala Australian Masters dinner at Crown Palladium, where he joined spin king Shane Warne for a chat on stage.
He gets his first glimpse of the Victoria Golf Club layout early this morning when he tees off in a pro-am event with three lucky weekend hackers associated with tournament sponsor JBWere.
Woods was last night drifting in the betting markets, with a flood of money coming for Aussie star Robert Allenby.
Bookmakers wound his price out to $3.80 (he was $2.60 this time last year) and cut Allenby's price to $7.
Woods has not won a tournament since last year's Masters at Kingston Heath and recently relinquished his world No. 1 ranking, held for the past six years.
"Tiger is still the clear favourite to win the Masters, but he's up against a world-class field and there's a host of genuine winning chances," Sportsbet.com.au spokesman Haydn Lane said.
Within days of leaving Melbourne last year, a US newspaper revealed Woods had secretly entertained New York party girl Rachel Uchitel in his Crown Towers hotel room.
A string of mistresses later came forward admitting to affairs with the golfing superstar, who has since divorced.
Fans who heckle Tiger or any other player during the Masters will be booted out under long-standing crowd behaviour rules.
US police tasered a drunken spectator in May after he abused Woods during a tournament in Florida.