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Woods Hopes to Write Different Ending

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Unusual things happen to Tiger Woods in Dubai.
When Woods first played in the Dubai Desert Classic in 2001, the crown prince named a thoroughbred after him: Dubai Tiger. This week, Woods was taken by helicopter to the roof of the world's tallest hotel so he could hit golf balls into the Arabian Gulf.
Strange things happen to him on the golf course, too.
Woods returns to the European tour event (Live Thursday on TGC at 4:30 a.m. ET; Re-airs at 9:00 a.m and 8:30 p.m.) where he had one of his rare collapses.
On his way to a wire-to-wire victory in 2001, Thomas Bjorn tied Woods for the lead on the 17th hole of the final round, then won the tournament when Woods hit into the trees, into the rough and into the water on the last hole. Woods made double bogey and finished two shots behind.
'It got away on the last hole,' Woods said.
It was only the fourth time worldwide that Woods has failed to win when he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead, and he hasn't blown one since in 15 tries.
Woods gets another chance in Dubai this week against a strong field that includes Bjorn, Darren Clarke and Ernie Els.
Woods, who received a $3 million appearance fee, was supposed to play Dubai last year, but withdrew because of the impending war against Iraq.
'We gave a promise last year that Tiger would return, and we're happy to be back,' said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG.
Noting the proximity of Dubai from Baghdad, Steinberg added, 'It does not look far on the map, but it feels a long way from it.'
Woods is coming off a victory in the Match Play Championship, and he doesn't expect an 18-hour trip across 12 time zones to be a factor this week.
'I feel good. Why would I be tired?' Woods said Wednesday after finishing an 18-hole practice round that began at 7:45 a.m. 'I get up early every day.'
Els, a runner-up in Dubai last year, is much more fresh.
The Big Easy has not played since he won the Heineken Classic in Australia four weeks ago, where he shot a 60 in the opening round, built an eight-shot lead and then had to hang on against Adam Scott.
Els decided to skip the Match Play Championship for the first time, spending time at his home in London before his 4-year-old daughter went to school for the first time.
Els is used to the hype Woods brings to golf, having squared off against him several times on the PGA Tour. It gets even bigger on the European tour.
'Obviously, in America it's not that big a deal,' Els said.
'But it is over here, since you don't see Tiger at every European event. He's No. 1 in the world and just came off a victory, so he's feeling good about his game. I feel good about my game, too, so let's see what happens.'
It could be the first of several clashes between Woods and Els as they work their way to the Masters.
Both are expected to play in two weeks at the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Fla., where Woods is going for an unprecedented fifth straight victory.
The following week is The Players Championship, with a week off before the Masters.
Clarke, meantime, apparently isn't handling the jet lag as well as Woods.
'I'm ready to lie back here and go to sleep right now,' Clarke said after his warmup Wednesday. 'And I imagine a few other people are, too.'
Clarke was poised to meet Woods in the finals at La Costa until he blew a 2-up lead with two holes to play, losing to Davis Love III in the semifinals.
Clarke won the consolation match against Stephen Leaney.
Still, he brought plenty of good vibes to Dubai.
'Last week I didn't have my game, but I was able to grind out scores and grind out results,' Clarke said. 'The fact that I can finish third in a World Golf Championship event and not really be on top of my game is very positive.'
Related Links:
  • TGC Airtimes
  • Full Coverage - Dubai Desert Classic