Tiger Woods

Sergio Garcia leads as Tiger Woods toils at Dubai Desert Classic

Spaniard leads as world No 666 struggles continue in the desert

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 10:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 11:51am

Sergio Garcia led as Tiger Woods’ struggles continued leaving him with a mountain to climb to avoid the cut at the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday.

Garcia shot a superb opening round of seven-under par 65 to top the leaderboard by one shot from Chile’s Felipe Aguilar and South Africa’s George Coetzee.

For Woods, 41, it was a day to forget as he slumped to a birdie-less five-over par 77 meaning his weekend will be over after today’s play unless he shoots a huge round in the afternoon.

The American world number 666 was among the morning groups to tee off on Thursday, and from his first hooked drive on the 10th hole, which led to a bogey, it was a relentless but futile search for the former world number one.

He made the turn at three-over par after hitting his third shot into the water on the par-5 18th.

Even though he seemed to be hitting the ball much better on his back nine (the front nine of the Majlis course), he missed four birdie chances and made two further bogeys.

The 14-times major winner shrugged: “Well, I didn’t hit the ball very well.

“I left there probably about 16 putts short. I just couldn’t get the speed of these things, and consequently, it added up to a pretty high number.”

There were a couple of shots during the round where he walked gingerly after hitting, but Woods said he wasn’t in any pain.

“I was just trying to hit shots and I wasn’t doing a very good job,” he added.

“At the end, I finally hit some good ones but damage had already been done. On top of that, I could have hung in there, I could have shot something near even par if I would have made some putts, but I made nothing.”

Garcia meanwhile made the most of the calmer morning conditions as he took a one-shot lead when play was suspended due to bad light.

The Spaniard, who made an eagle three on the par-5 third hole, started from the 10th tee and was bogey-free for 16 holes before making one on the eighth.

“I’ve done very well I guess. Obviously, it was a nice way to start. A good, solid round. It was getting a little bit tasty there at the end, the last five, six holes.

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“So it was nice to be able to get it in on a good score and see what happens. Tomorrow is supposed to be a tough day, so we’ll see,” said Garcia, who plans to marry his girlfriend Angela Akins this year.

Aguilar was bogey-free in his 66 with three birdies on each side of the golf course, while Coetzee started with a bogey before making seven birdies.

England’s Ian Poulter was part of a four-man group at five-under par 67.

India’s Dubai-based 17-year-old amateur Rayhan Thomas shot a four-under par 68 to share eighth with 2007 champion and European No 1 Henrik Stenson of Sweden, 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell and two others.

Defending champion Danny Willett, who was playing with Woods, signed for one under par 71.

Australian Ryan Fox had the best score of 68 among the afternoon groups, which were affected by windy conditions.