Monday, February 14, 2011

Tiger finally bares his teeth

Tiger Woods' form at the Dubai Desert Classic will come as a massive relief to the former world number one. His unshakable belief in his ability is well-documented, but the long run of poor form must have given him some doubts, even if he wasn't amongst those who deemed his recent decline to be terminal.

The remedial work done on Woods' swing and short game under the watchful eye of coach Sean Foley in a much-needed off-season was put to the test after an erratic display in the opening round in Dubai and Woods delivered in fine style in the second round, carding a bogeyless 66.

This was undoubtedly his best round since he returned to golf early in 2010. For a player who has won 14 majors it does not constitute a return to top form, but it is a base to work on that was absent for most of last year. Of course, the golf betting odds usually suggest Woods will do well in a tournament, but it's hard to escape the feeling that he is still living off past glories.

The low points were numerous in 2010. The sixth missed cut of his career at the Quail Hollow Championship, the second round 79 in the same tournament, the 78th place finish at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the winless year all contributed to a crisis that suggested the way back to the top would not be easy.

This has proved to be the case, as consistency remains a problem. He mixed an eagle and some stunning drives with some three putts and wild approaches in his opening round at Dubai, a hit-and-miss standard of play that he set in finishing joint 44th at the Farmers Insurance Open in his opening tournament of the year.

However, Woods' signs of improvement are clear to see, especially as he found his Dubai form in a historic threesome with Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the men who have overhauled him in the world rankings – the best possible preparation for the latter stages of a major. Woods has the pedigree and experience and form to triumph at Augusta and might well arrive with the necessary current form.

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