Tiger lying low as he prepares to pounce at Mount Juliet

 

Those stalking the tiger have their work cut out. The rumour mill has it that Tiger Woods has been in the country for a couple of days - resting and probably fishing - but there was no sign of him at Mount Juliet in Co Kilkenny yesterday, where this week's $5.5 million American Express World Golf Championship takes place.

Whatever about his where-abouts for the past couple of days, a first sighting of the world's number one golfer is expected today.

It is anticipated that Woods - who played a flying visit to the course during the summer for a practice round - will play at least nine practice holes today and probably play a full round tomorrow on the course designed by Jack Nicklaus.

Those seeking a peek at him, however, be warned. Woods, the current US Masters and US Open champion, normally plays his practice at the break of dawn and gets his day's toil finished before most mortals start theirs.

The first World Golf Championship event to be staged in northern Europe, the AmEx has attracted a field of 65 players, which includes 49 of the top in the official world rankings.

The championship has also brought a late harvest for many in the tourist industry, with the rare sight of "no vacancies" signs outside many guesthouses.

"The American Express championship has been a very welcome boom to the tourist accommodation sector in Kilkenny and the surrounding areas," said Mr Pat Nolan, of the regional tourism office in Kilkenny.

"There are very nearly house-full signs all over the place."

The event will account for over 15,000 hotel and guesthouse beds in Kilkenny alone, while heavy bookings have been reported in Waterford, Carlow, New Ross and Tipperary to accommodate the spill-over.

All corporate hospitality for the championship has been sold out - making it the biggest corporate event in Ireland this year - and crowds of up to 25,000 are expected each day.

Official practice rounds are scheduled to take place today and tomorrow, with the first round of the championship starting on Thursday. Advance ticket sales have ceased, but tickets will be available at point-of-entry for the duration of the championship.