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Thursday, 31 January 2008

The first round of the Dubai Desert Classic was littered with thrills, spills and drama, but at the end of the day the leaderboards around the Emirates Golf Club boasted a rather inevitable name in the number one spot.

Tiger Woods’s seemingly endless ability to improve will surely send an ominous warning to the rest of the field in Dubai, but with players of the calibre of Miguel Angel Jiménez, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell among the 12 strong group of players just two strokes behind Woods, and Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and defending champion Henrik Stenson among the 14 players three behind the World Number One, it is certain to be another enriching chapter in the history of this prestigious tournament.

With an early tee time for the first round, Woods, who overwhelmed the competition on his first appearance of the year to win in America last week, set about constructing a brilliant opening 65 that took him to seven under par and saw him establish that two stroke advantage.

The 32 year old got off to a perfect start with a birdie on the par five tenth hole and never looked back from there, putting on yet another flawless, bogey free display to once more take control of a tournament. 

“I played well today, and just hit a bunch of good golf shots,” he said. “The only bad shot I really hit today was at the 13th.  Other than that, I really hit the ball well and definitely played better than I did last week.  I had two good days of practice the last couple days and started to hit the ball a lot better than I did last week.

“I definitely missed a few putts today.  I had a couple good opportunities to make some putts and just kind of ran them over the edge but overall today was just great and I couldn't ask for a better start.”

By the time the majority of the field were teeing off at the Emirates Golf Club, Woods’s named was already emblazoned across the leaderboard.

And so the Tiger chase began with Jiménez leading the most dramatic of bursts towards the World Number One with a brilliant hole in one at the par three seventh hole, his 16th of the day.

The colourful Spaniard slammed a perfect six iron from 158 metres straight into the hole before birdieing the tough par four ninth to move to five under par.

Stenson, teeing off on the first hole as Woods was completing his round, launched a blistering early attack, with four birdies in his opening five holes, but he remained on that score for the remainder of the day to join Els, Garcia and David Howell among others on four under 68.

But, at the end of the day, the inevitable was there for all to see – Tiger Woods on top of the pile and looking unlikely to loosen his grip on his second tournament of the season without a fight.

“I’m striking the golf ball well,” said Woods ominously. “ I hit the golf ball a lot more clean today and shaped the ball better.  Obviously drove the ball a lot better but the shape of my shots were so much more  so much better than it was last week.”

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