DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Call it baby steps with a few bumps in the road.
Tiger Woods’ 1-under 71 on Sunday at the Dubai Desert Classic doesn’t exactly sound like a breakthrough, but after a difficult two rounds from tee to green to start the week, the world No. 1 was pleased with his progress if not his putter.
“Unfortunately I turned it around too late,” said Woods, who was tied for 41st when he finished his round at 6 under par. “I piped it all day. My iron game was not as sharp as I’d like, and I didn’t make anything. I had seven lip-outs today. That’s quite a few.”
After a slow start on Day 4, Woods two-putted for his first birdie of the day at the par-5 10th hole and would bookend that inward loop with another two-putt birdie at the par-5 closing hole. His par 5 scoring through his first two events – he failed to birdie a single par 5 last week at Torrey Pines – had been a weakness, but improved driving on the weekend in Dubai seemed to pull him from his scoring swoon.
Woods hit 9 of 14 fairways on Sunday, matching his effort from a day earlier, and 12 of 18 greens in regulation, but needed 30 putts.
“The long game was certainly frustrating last week, and we got that figured out. I hit so many good putts and just kept lipping everything out,” he said. “My speed was just a fraction off and the grain would snag it, or it would blow right through.”
Woods closed his week with three consecutive birdies, converting from 7 feet at the 16th, 2 feet at the 17th and two-putting the last. His birdie at the 16th hole was his longest putt of the day.
Woods plans to fly to India for a corporate outing this week and declined to speculate on his next PGA Tour start, which he rarely does. Reports earlier this week said Woods was likely to skip the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which would mean his next start would probably be the Honda Classic at the end of February.