Dubai – Tiger Woods enjoyed some welcome Arabian comfort on Thursday, opening the Dubai Desert Classic with a 68 that was 11 shots better than his previous round at Torrey Pines last Saturday.
That seven-over flop in San Diego meant that the world number one got his 2014 campaign off to the worst possible of starts by missing the cut on a course where he was a multiple winner.
Just a bad day at the office was his unperturbed assessment of that round, and he did enough at the Majlis Course, where he has won twice previously, to give that view some credence.
“Overall it was a pretty good score. Maybe could have gotten two more out of it. After going 0 for 12 on birdies on the par-fives last week, it was actually nice to make one too. The first hole, right out of the gate. Got rolling from there a little bit.”
Rolling for Woods meant further birdies at 13, 15 and 18 to go out in four under. He struggled a bit coming back in on the more tricky front nine, especially off the tee, but his short game was sharp and he came home without a bogey on his card.
“I hit a lot of good putts which was nice. Last week I didn't do it. It was nice to actually play well again.”
Playing partner and good friend Rory McIlroy, who carded a pace-setting 63, said he had not been that taken aback by Woods' travails at Torrey Pines.
“It happens to everyone,” he said.
“I think the way they set the golf course up last week at Torrey - if you were just slightly off, it magnified those misses.
“I watched a little bit and the greens didn't look particularly good. I know that he three-putted a couple of times and when you leave yourself those three-footers on those sort of poa greens and they get a little fast, a little bumpy, it's tricky. It happens to everyone.
“Obviously Tiger's played well there in the past, but it doesn't mean you're going to play well there every time.
“He didn't get off to the greatest start today, but he really managed his game well and started hitting a lot of good shots on the back nine.”
The prime objective for Woods this year is to finally win another major, his last coming in June 2008 at the US Open at Torrey Pines.
On 14 majors, he remains four short of the all-time record set by Jack Nicklaus at the 1986 Masters when he was 46 years old, eight years older than Woods is now.
Asked what he planned to do before Friday's second round, Woods replied: “I'm going to work on a couple of things here and there, but I felt like it was a good round.” – Sapa-AFP