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30 November 2023

Dubai Desert Classic: False start not a worry for Tiger


Fractions count in golf according to Tiger Woods, and it was fractions that led to his downfall at Torrey Pines last week when he shot a 79 to match his second worst score as a professional.

That Saturday slump in his season opener meant that he missed the secondary cut for Sunday play on one of his favourite courses where he has multiple wins and raised question marks over his form going into what is looming as a key year in his career.

Marooned on 14 Major titles since winning the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008, time is running out on the 38-year-old American in his lifelong quest to match and then better the all-time record of 18 major victories set down in 1986 by Jack Nicklaus.

"There's no doubt about it - my game certainly was not as sharp as I would have liked it last week," he said ahead of Thursday's start to the European Tour's Dubai desert Classic.

"I was just a fraction off though and a fraction off on a golf course set up that hard. It bit a lot of us and unfortunately it bit me pretty hard. I think the average score was just over 73 on Saturday and I shot 79."

Since, then Woods said that he had used the unscheduled day off on Sunday to work on "a few slight adjustments".

"I then came out here (Dubai) and just wanted to improve every day. Tuesday was better than Monday and Wednesday was better than Tuesday. Hopefully tomorrow (Thursday) will be even better than today."

The Majlis course in the heart of one of Dubai's spectacular skyscraper skyline developments, like Torrey Pines, is a favoured stomping ground for the American world number one.

Since making his first visit to the brash Emirate in 2001, Woods has won the Desert Classic twice (2006, 2008) and finished no worse than tied for 20th. He is a whopping 86-under-par for the 24 rounds that he has played during his six previous appearances in the European Tour event.

All the portents are there for a much improved showing from Woods compared to his last tournament in the Gulf when he missed the cut in nearby Abu Dhabi a little over a year ago.

The year looks ideally set up for Woods to finally add to his haul of major title wins.

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.

"These four venues are four venues that I've played well at. Three I've won at, one I'm trending in the right way. I'm looking forward to these Major championships and this season in general.

"I've got to keep putting myself in there and if I can keep doing that, I'll start clicking a few here and there. They key is to just keep putting myself in there."

Woods, who will play the first two rounds of the tournament in the company of the man he deposed as world number one, Rory McIlroy, also confirmed that he was starting the year injury-free after the Christmas/New Year break.

The American has been dogged with a succession of injuries over the last few years, notably to his knees, and last year he injured a wrist playing in the US Open in June and was hampered by a painful back at the Barclays event in August as a hectic schedule took its toll on him.