Tiger Woods owns Dubai. Well, not really. Although he does probably have enough money to buy large swaths of land in the UAE. I'm talking golf, though. Historically, Woods has played incredibly well at the Dubai Desert Classic. He has two wins and owns a sub-69 scoring average in his career at the par-72 course.
Thursday's opening round did not go so well. Woods shot an ugly 77 in which he moved gingerly, did not swing with ease and scored like he already had one foot on that commercial flight back to the United States. Woods' 5-over 77 included five bogeys and no birdies. He finds himself T121 after 18 holes.
Woods insisted after his round that he wasn't hurt even though he moved like he was nursing a tender body part throughout a lengthy round.
"I wasn't in pain at all," Woods said. "I was just trying to hit shots, and I wasn't doing a very good job. At the end I finally hit some good ones but damage had already been done. On top of that, I could have hung in there, I could have shot something near even par if I would have made some putts, but I made nothing."
What Woods did was leave everything short of the hole. At one point Woods left a putt so woefully short of the hole, some reasoned he must have topped it. With his putter!
"I didn't hit the ball very well," Woods said. "I left probably about 16 putts short. I just couldn't get the speed of these things, and consequently, it added up to a pretty high number."
It's a number that could see him miss the cut in consecutive weeks. At 5 over, Woods has a lot of work to do. Leader Sergio Garcia is 7 under, 12 shots clear of Woods. The cut line should be at or around even par, which means Woods is going to have to shoot something special Friday just to have a tee time Saturday.
"Hopefully this wind blows tomorrow and I shoot a good round and get back to even par now," Woods said. "That's certainly not out of the realm of winning the golf tournament. But I have to go out there and do it. I have to go out there and execute, and it's going to be tough. Hopefully it is tough and I can play a really solid round, and give myself more looks. I mean, I haven't given myself a lot of looks at birdies and I need to give myself a lot more looks."
Woods' issues are rampant. He has never been very good with his driver, but now he's shorter than he has ever been because, it seems, he's trying to keep from re-injuring himself. He's also more wayward than before. Only Woods knows how his body operates, but this exchange at an early-week press conference gave some interesting insight into Woods' injury-riddled psyche.
Reporter: Is it fair to say that your current swing is one with which your body can cope?
Woods: "Body can cope with it? Yeah. The simplest thing is I just play away from pain. That's it."
Reporter: So there's no pain?
Woods: "Play away from pain." (Laughter).
Woods: "Whether my swing looks classical, rhythmical or it may look unorthodox, I don't care. As long as I don't feel that nerve pain. Anyone in here who has ever had nerve pain in their back or anywhere in their spine, it's like hitting your funny bone a thousand times a day; it's just not fun. And I would much rather not have to go through that again."
What he's going through right now is a re-introduction into the cruel democracy of this sport. You are never more naked as an athlete than in golf where the ball and the hole don't care about former glories. Woods' aim is admirable -- contend again at major championships -- but he's a long way from that reality right now.
"I'm fighting my ass off to try and shoot a score," Woods said. "I'm trying to get back to even par, and once I get back to even par, try and get 1 or 2 under. Just try and creep my way back. I kept telling [caddy Joe LaCava], I said, 'If we could get to even par at the turn, we have two drivable, three short, come on, maybe we can get to under par for the round, we can get this thing going, we can get it moving.' And it just never materialized. I never did it."
Maybe on Friday he will.