Saturday 21 October 2017

Tiger Woods suffers nightmare opening round in Dubai as comeback continues

Tiger Woods follows his ball on the 13th hole during the Dubai Desert Classic
Tiger Woods follows his ball on the 13th hole during the Dubai Desert Classic

Phil Casey

Former world number one Tiger Woods suffered a nightmare start to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic as his golfing comeback continued in demoralising fashion.

Woods failed to card a single birdie as he slumped to an opening 77 at Emirates Golf Club, two shots worse than his previous highest score in the event.

That left the 14-time major winner with just three players below him on the leaderboard and 12 shots off the clubhouse lead held by Sergio Garcia, who carded six birdies and an eagle in his 65.

Woods had said on Wednesday that his latest swing has been designed to "play away from pain" as he returned to action from a back injury which required three operations in the space of 19 months.

However, the 41-year-old did not look 100 per cent fit at various points in his round, climbing gingerly out of a greenside bunker early on and notably grimacing as he walked off the seventh tee.

In his first five appearances in Dubai, Woods never finished outside the top five and lifted the trophy in 2006 and 2008. He finished 20th and 41st respectively on his last two visits in 2011 and 2014, but was still a combined 92 under par.

But he faces a massive task to avoid his second missed cut in a row after making an early exit from his first PGA Tour event since August 2015 in San Diego last week.

Starting from the 10th, Woods bogeyed the 549-yard par five after failing to get up and down from a bunker, before dropping another shot by three-putting from just short of the 12th green.

Another shot went after his approach to the 18th came up short of the green and rolled back into the water, the world number 666 having to hole from eight feet to avoid a double bogey.

That meant an opening nine holes of 40 and chances for a first birdie of the day went begging on the second and third after a poor chip from short of the green and another tentative putt from seven feet respectively.

Woods was struggling to get the pace of the greens and three-putted the fifth before missing from five feet for par on the next, and a miserable day was summed up by an uphill birdie putt on the ninth which was well short of pace.

At seven under par, Garcia held a one-shot lead over Chile's Felipe Aguilar and South Africa's George Coetzee, with England's Ian Poulter a shot further back after a 67.

"It was a nice way to start, a good solid round," Garcia told Sky Sports. "It was getting a little bit tasty there at the end so it was nice to be able to get in with a good score and see what happens this afternoon.

"The wind was definitely blowing harder as we went on and it's supposed to blow hard, but you never know."

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