European Tour

Woods to rebound in Dubai

Tiger Woods (AFP)
Tiger Woods (AFP)

Dubai - It was business as usual for Tiger Woods in Dubai on Tuesday as he shrugged off his horror 79 at Torrey Pines on Saturday in his first tournament of the year.

The 38-year-old world number one teed off in the 18-hole, Former Champions challenge to mark the Dubai Desert Classic's 25th anniversary with three straight birdies to briefly move into the lead.

His back nine was less impressive, though, as he fired into the water at the 18th to close with a one-under 71, five shots off the winning pace set by Henrik Stenson and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

In his first comments since matching his worst-ever tournament score on US soil, Woods sounded unperturbed after going out with Desert Classic defending champion Stephen Gallacher of Scotland and US veteran Freddie Couples.

"It was fun," he said as he returned to play at the Emirates Golf Club after a two-year absence, during which he opted instead to play at nearby Abu Dhabi.

Asked to comment on what had gone wrong at his favourite California course on Saturday, when his 79 meant that he missed the secondary cut for play on the Sunday, Woods said it had just been a bad day at the office.

"I went home and had a nice day off, worked in my putting a little bit in the backyard and that was it," he said of his Sunday schedule before flying out to Dubai.

"I know I'm not that far off. Just had one (bad) day and that happens. I was swinging well. Even that shot I hit on 18 there on the third round was right at the flag, between three-iron and five-wood -- tried to chip a five-wood in there and hit it short in the water and it snowballed from there.

"But I hit a lot of good shots to that point and then struggled to the next stretch.

"But you know that's unfortunately, the longer you play this sport, the more things like that happen."

Of course Woods has rebounded from a poor showing in double-quick time before, notably last year when he went straight from a missed cut in Abu Dhabi to win the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines -- the first of five titles in the year en route to another Player of the Year award.

A winner twice before in Dubai, Woods will once again be the focus when he tees off on Thursday in the company of Rory McIlroy and Gallacher. An early start on Thursday was to his liking.

"The greens are absolutely immaculate. They have got some speed to them, some firmness to them but not too bad.

"But more than anything they are rolling so true. First out, early in the morning, you can pour a lot of putts in."

Stuck on 14 major titles since winning the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, Woods faces a crucial year in his lifelong quest to pass the Jack Nicklaus all-time record of 18 majors. But the portents are good

He has prior major wins at three of this year's major courses -- Augusta National for the Masters, Valhalla for the PGA Championship and Royal Liverpool for the British Open -- and a second and third at Pinehurst, site of the US Open in June.

A good showing at Dubai this week would set him off on the right track en route to Augusta National at the start of April.

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