FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD:
-6 B Grace (SA), J Nitties (Aus), T Woods (US) -5 D Holloway (NZ), C Percy (AUS) -4 C Chalmers (AUS), Goggin (Aus), P Nolan -3 S Appleby (AUS), R Blizard, A Hall, D Jordan, R Kulacz, L Slattery (ENG) Selected others: -1 A Scott (AUS) Level G Ogilvy (AUS) +3 C Macaulay (SCO) +5 A Coltart (SCO)
Woods will hope to build on his fine start in Thursday's second round
World number one Tiger Woods moved into three-way share of the lead at the Australian Masters in Melbourne with a six-under-par opening round of 66.
Woods sits levels with 21-year-old South African Branden Grace and Australia's James Nitties.
Playing for the first time down under in 11 years, the 33-year-old American fired seven birdies and one bogey in front of a 21,356-strong crowd.
New Zealand's Doug Holloway and home hope Cameron Percy are a shot back.
But all eyes were on Woods, who putted for birdie on every hole until the last when the 14-time major winner pulled his drive into a tea tree, chopped out into the rough and took two putts from 40 feet for his lone bogey.
"Other than that, it was a pretty good day," said Woods after a sparkling first-ever competitive round on Kingston Heath's sandbelt course.
Woods started from the 10th and 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 hat-trick of birdies at 6, 7 and 9.
He missed only two fairways, hit a driver off five tees and, apart for the final hole, kept his ball in play and away from the trouble.
"We can't believe how soft the greens were," he added. "I know they're trying to protect them with the heat and the wind that's expected but we were pretty surprised."
Grace, whose best finish on the European Tour this season was a sixth in the South African Open last December, only entered the tournament in a last-ditch bid to save his card on the European Tour where he sits in 149th place.
He got to seven-under before dropping a shot late in his round for his 66 and said: "I played really solidly today and just really enjoyed it out there.
The Tiger Woods fan club was out in force around the course
"My caddy kept me really calm out there which was a huge help."
Nitties, who came into the tournament after a solid debut season on the US PGA Tour, used his local knowledge to his advantage in constructing a bogey-free round, the highlight of which was an eagle at the 516m, par-four 15th.
Melbourne's Percy, who's returned home on a high after securing his card for next season's US PGA Tour courtesy of his eighth-placing on the Nationwide Tour money list, is one shot off the pace after signing for a 67 as is Holloway, who had bogey-free round.
Those who teed off in the afternoon were subject to increased winds and only a handful of them looked like challenging the early marks.
Mathew Goggin was the best of them, finishing on four-under alongside Greg Chalmers and Peter Nolan while six players, Englishman Lee Slattery and Australians Damien Jordan, Rohan Blizard, Rick Kulacz, Stuart Appleby and Ashley Hall finished with three-under 69s.
Last year's winner Rod Pampling, who along with Craig Parry (-2) partnered Woods, finished with a 71.