SHANGHAI (Reuters) - World number one Tiger Woods made a solid start to the WGC-HSBC Champions on Thursday despite the distraction of being pursued by a huge crowd of snap-happy locals following his every move.
Crowd behaviour has improved since Woods made his first appearance in China eight years ago, when stiletto-heel wearing fans charged across the greens in chaotic scenes at the Mission Hills club in Shenzhen.
It was clear on Thursday, however, that not everyone in the packed gallery following Woods in the opening round of his third tournament in Shanghai was familiar with the etiquette of watching golf.
“There’s certainly a lot of people out there,” Woods told reporters after shooting a five-under-par 67 to stand three shots behind early leader Nick Watney.
”There was a lot of people... moving and things. We had to stay focused.
“I think it’s a disadvantage because there are so many people with cameras here. The other groups probably don’t have to deal with it as much as we do.”
The problems started at Woods’s opening hole when cameras clicked and whirred as the 14-times major champion played his first tee shot in front of more than a thousand spectators.
“The guy in the grandstand basically did a photo sequence. I flinched on it and hit it straight to the right,” the 33-year-old added.
Despite finding the rough, Woods managed to recover for a par but the problems did not stop there, as Ross Fisher, his British playing partner, explained.
“It took us a while to get into it, because it was very difficult to focus and concentrate because there were so many cameras going off,” said the Englishman, fresh from his World Match Play triumph in Spain on Sunday.
”I think even the first hole, I backed off my second shot twice, three times, and heard cameras go off in swings and everything.
“So it was difficult, it was tough mentally,” added Fisher, who finished with a two-under-par 70 for a share of 21st.
It did not really improve until seventh hole, Woods said, but it was something he had come to expect playing in countries where the game was still underdeveloped.
”There’s no history (in China) yet,“ he said. ”The populous has not played golf long enough to understand yet, that takes time.
“There’s a lot of countries we’ve played in that are the same way, but over time as they get more experience and more people playing the game and really understanding what the game is all about, then it doesn’t happen as much.”
Editing by John O'Brien; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com