Sport Golf

Friday 19 January 2018

Going stride for stride with Tiger gave my career crucial lift – McGrane

Damien McGrane says playing alongside Tiger Woods gave his career a lift
Damien McGrane says playing alongside Tiger Woods gave his career a lift

Karl MacGinty

PLAIN Damien McGrane isn't one for airs or graces.

And as Tiger Woods discovered, the flinty Kells man treats everyone the same.

"Well, Tiger, how's things?" was McGrane's jaunty opening gambit as he and Woods marched down the first after their opening tee shots at the Dubai Desert Classic.

"That's what I've said to thousands of other people," he explained. "Tiger got the normal line and we had a good chat all the way round. He was great company and very, very easy to play with."

Playing with the game's greatest player is said to be daunting, especially in the tumult which follows him around the course.

Yet McGrane (42) drew enormous inspiration from their close encounter in the final pairing on Saturday at the 2008 Desert Classic, saying: "That was my best year and playing that day with Tiger probably started it off."

McGrane took second place in India the following Sunday and triumphed at the Volvo China Open weeks later.

Doubtless, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Stephen Gallacher will hope being drawn with Woods over the next two days in Dubai will prove as positive for them.

SHOWDOWN

Typically, McGrane emerged from desert storms with opening rounds of 68 and 69 to force a Saturday afternoon showdown with Tiger.

"You could go out there and be a nervous wreck but I knew I'd play my own game," he said. "Tiger Woods just happened to be marking my scorecard. I enjoyed his company rather than being afraid of the moment."

Others might find the experience daunting but McGrane said: "For me, it was a form of reassurance. I thought if I can play with Tiger Woods, I can play with anybody.

"And if I can play in this anarchy (and it really was bananas at times) I can go out with Rafa Cabrera-Bello or anyone else in the final group here next Sunday and be comfortable.

"I realised that we all play the same game and when we're performing to our best, we're all able to mix it. Clearly, he does it more consistently but it was comforting to see I could play with him and enjoy his company because that's half the battle."

McGrane outscored Tiger by one that Saturday with an even-par 72 but a final-round 65 clinched a second Desert Classic victory for Woods.

The Irishman's title hopes were wrecked when his approach shots sucked back into the water on nine and 18. "All of a sudden, I made a bags of it but that week in Dubai will remain one of the most important of my career," he said.

Irish Independent

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