Tiger Woods, though not exactly sizzling during Thursday’s opening round of the Dubai Desert Classic, submitted a passable 4-under 68. When compared to playing partner Rory McIlroy’s red-hot 63, however, the world No. 1 can only hope to catch fire and catch up with his young Nike stablemate.
Watch this Golf Channel highlight reel to see how Woods, despite going "sideways" around the Emirates Golf Club where he has previously chalked up two wins, used that day of short-game practice back home in Florida to right many of the wrongs he committed during a sloppy and apathetic stinker last Saturday at Torrey Pines.
More to the point, though, check out how McIlroy -- after a win at the Australian Open and a few recent top-10 performances (T6 at the WGC-HSBC Champions, T5 at the DP World Tour Championship, and T2 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship) -- appears to have rebounded from his nightmarish no-win 2013 season (via Golf Channel)
McIlroy, by the way, would enjoy reclaiming the top spot in the world rankings, but he figures winning will take care of that.
"It’s a byproduct of playing well, giving yourself chances to win tournaments," the two-time major champion told GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard after a flawless round that included an eagle and seven birdies. "If I finish second in every tournament from now to the end of the year, I would be world No. 1. I won’t be happy. I wouldn’t have won."
Don’t misunderstand McIlroy; Caroline Wozniacki’s betrothed wouldn’t mind moving on up the rankings leader board. It's just that worldwide standings don’t keep him up at night.
"Only five players in the world ahead of me," he quipped. "When you’re used to being up there it’s more of an ego boost than anything else. You see yourself up there and you feel good about yourself but it doesn’t matter."
McIlroy enters day two with a two-shot lead over Edoardo Molinari. Woods, tied for 10th, has some ground to make up, but he was pleased with his effort, especially on what he termed "absolutely perfect" greens.
"It was a good day. I could have gotten a couple more out of it ... but I hit a lot of good putts, which was nice. Last week I didn’t do it. It was nice to actually go out there and putt well again," Woods told reporters after strolling the fairways with a pair of good buddies.
"Rory and I have become pretty close friends over the last probably year and a half or so ... our friendship’s sort of taken off," said Woods, who noted that his history with defending champ Stephen Gallacher (T3 at 6-under), the third member of the marquee threesome, was an old pal.
"We go all the way back to the Walker Cup days ... all the way back to ’95," he said. "We’ve known each other for a very long time."