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Wednesday, 01 February 2006

Tiger Woods will be hoping to make it third time lucky as he heads into the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club tomorrow.

Having burst out of the blocks with victory in his first tournament back after his winter break, when he didn’t touch a club for 24 days, the World Number One will be looking to go a step further than 2001 and 2004 to claim his first title in The Gulf.

“It was a fantastic way to start for the year, to take that much time off, and to come back and win,” said Woods, who will play the first two rounds alongside Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, Europe’s form horse, and Ulsterman Darren Clarke. “I didn't really play well the first day but after that I played pretty good.  So it was great to put the pieces together so quickly in the beginning of the year.

“I was physically a little beat and mentally tired at the end of the year, so it was nice to get away and just have fun with the family and friends and put the sticks away.

“Hopefully I can put the pieces together this week.  The golf course is in perfect shape, so it's going to take some pretty good scoring.”

Defending champion Ernie Els is relishing another showdown with Woods over the majestic Majlis Course. While Woods is the World Number One, statistics show Els is the man to beat having never finished outside the top ten in his eight previous outings and holds the couse record of 11 under par 61.

Els said Woods and World Number Three Retief Goosen could pose the biggest threats to his bid to win the title for a record fourth time.

"I am looking forward to the challenge (with Woods)," said Els. "Tiger is looking good after his victory in the United States, isn't he?

"But you know I have won here before and I like the course. I have a good karma with the place and feel comfortable here."

World Number Five Els, who also won here in 1994 and 2002, goes into the tournament at the Emirates Golf Club on the back of a tie for 13th in last week's Commercialbank Qatar Masters where he equalled Bernhard Langer's record of surviving 69 consecutive cuts.

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