Tiger Woods will take a two shot lead over Thomas Björn into the third round of the Dubai Desert Classic after the leading two competitors served up a record breaking spectacular for the sell-out 10,500 crowd at the Emirates Golf Club.
When the dust finally settled, the World Number One took the honours with his second consecutive 64 to finish on a 16 under par total of 128, the lowest 36 hole score in the 12 year history of the event. It beat the previous best of 130 set by Ernie Els in his Championship winning year of 1994.
But the day was not all about Woods. Were it not for a solitary bogey at the 14th after a poor drive and a missed birdie effort from five feet at the last, Björn too would have finished on 16 under par, but his 66 for a 14 under par total of 130 was still a superb effort.
Indeed, between them, the American and the Dane birdied all 18 holes on the Majlis course over the first two rounds making 31 birdies in total with only Björn’s solitary bogey to show in the minus column. To complete the mind-boggling statistics, the duo’s better ball total for 36 holes was 120, 24 under par.
Despite threatening to turn the tournament into a two horse race, the rest of the field battled gamely to stay in touch with the leading duo, the best effort being recorded by India’s Jeev Milkha Singh who carded an excellent 66 for an 11 under par total of 133, three behind Björn and five adrift of Woods.
One shot behind Singh came Englishman Brian Davis and Ireland’s Paul McGinley, while four players reached the halfway stage on nine under par, Bradley Dredge, Padraig Harrington, John Bickerton and the 1990 champion Eamonn Darcy.
For the second day in succession, Woods rattled in eight birdies in a flawless round and admitted his love affair with the Emirates Golf Club showed little sign of abating. “I’ve watched the tournament on television for a number of years and I’ve always liked the conditions,” he said.
“It has been one of the hallmarks of the European Tour. It attracts one of the best fields in the world actually, and it has always been something I have enjoyed watching.”
Woods also paid tribute to his European Tour opponent. “I think we fed off one another again, at least for the beginning of the round,” he said. “I was able to hit some solid shots in there and make a couple of putts. Thomas was hitting the ball in tight and I had to make birdies just to keep pace.”
The plaudits were returned when Björn was asked about how he felt playing with Woods. “I said all along, if this guy brings his best golf game there is nobody in the world who’s going to beat him. But after two days, this is a great performance and there are still two rounds to go.
“If I keep playing my best, he’s got to let up a little bit but the way he’s playing right now, in the first two rounds, he’s shown why he’s Number One. He just doesn’t let up. He keeps going and that’s all credit to how good he is. He is, by far, the best golfer I have ever seen.
“But I am looking forward to tomorrow and playing with him again. Any chance I get to play with Tiger, last group on a Saturday or Sunday, the more I learn about myself and how good I can perform.”
Third placed Singh was delighted to feature on the higher echelons of a leaderboard again, largely because he missed six months of last season through injury, and is playing the first 11 events of 2001 on a medical exemption.
“I injured my wrist at the Johnnie Walker Classic in 1999 but I kept playing,” said the 29 year old from Chandigarh. “Last year in the same tournament I went out completely as I lost grip tension in my wrist and it was diagnosed as a ligament and bone injury.
“They said the only thing I could do was rest it, nothing else, because the blood circulation in that area is minimal and it was going to take a long time to heal. It’s still not 100 percent, about 90 percent, and the doctor says it’s going to be about a year and a half before it’s right.
“In the six months out I did nothing. I just flipped channels and got very good at watching television. I was in the States with my sister and my friends just watching television and I put on a lot of weight. I think it was one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a sportsman because you see everybody else playing and you can’t do anything, you’re helpless.”
The Indian was far from helpless on the Majlis course however, flawless golf producing six birdies and no dropped shots giving him an excellent 66 to follow his 67 of Thursday. “I’m happy with my game,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the weekend because it’s a long time since I was in contention anywhere.”
In tied fourth place, Paul McGinley matched Woods’s 64 while Brian Davis was especially delighted with his 65 for, until now, Dubai was a venue which previously had held only bad memories.
The 26-year-old's previous experience of the Gulf State was falling ill with what was diagnosed as chickenpox two years ago and then spending a week in intensive care in a local hospital with seriously high blood clot levels.
"I collapsed in my room and my parents, whom I'd rung when I was feeling bad, got someone to come in,”said Davis, whose second round 65 saw him move to ten under par 134. “After being taken to hospital it was another day before I woke up and four months before I was back to full-strength."
The Londoner started his second round on the back nine and after turning in three under par 34, he then covered the shorter front nine in 31, helping himself to birdies at the second, third, fifth and eighth.
Further down the leaderboard, European Number One Lee Westwood continued his impressive start to the defence of his Order of Merit crown by moving into a share of tenth place on eight under par, while the man he disposed, Colin Montgomerie, birdied two of the last three holes to finish on five under the card.
But elsewhere it was not such a happy day for Tiger Woods’s friend and travelling companion Mark O’Meara, the 1998 Open champion carding a 72 for a two over par total of 146 to miss the cut, which fell at three under par, by five strokes.2nd Round Video Highlights