Dubai Desert Classic 2014: Even Tiger Woods acknowledges incredible round by Rory McIlroy

The Northern Irishman struck a 63 in the opening round to put him nine under par

Dubai

Sublime is how Stephen Gallacher described it. Tiger Woods gives diddly squat to an opponent. “Good round” was as far as he would go, delivered in clipped verse as Rory McIlroy removed his ball from the cup at the 18th after a sumptuous 63.

Reticence is high praise from Woods. It means he has clocked something special, and McIlroy was certainly that to lead on the opening day of the Dubai Desert Classic. That it took him three holes to register his first birdie was something of a shock so sweetly was he striking the ball. Once that disappeared it was a day of big hitting, pin drubbing, eagle dropping, turbo golf.

“It inspires you to play better yourself,” said defending champion Gallacher, who played beautifully for his 66. McIlroy was five under at the turn and after an eagle at the third, his 12, lowering the course record of 61 was on. “That got me to eight under par. I guess I had six holes left and needed five birdies for the magical number (59). But no. I shot 62 last week, just a casual round of golf (at the Els course) so I wanted to shoot two 62s in a week. Wasn’t quite possible.”

This is the kind of failure McIlroy can tolerate. No-one is bothering to ask if he is back anymore. Three more days of this and he will be out on his own, if he is not already. Woods went through the same process not so long ago, rebuilding to a height of five wins last season.

He is nowhere near that form here. He barely found a fairway on his outward nine. Reaching the turn four under par was testimony to his iron will and the quality of his short game. He was in the desert on the first yet recovered thanks to a deadly wedge out of the rough to record an opening birdie. He drove back into the scrub on the third, after which he temporarily benched the driver in favour of the 3-wood.

No such travails for the reconstituted boy wonder, who striped drive after drive down the middle. Gallacher was very much the gooseberry in this company, despite playing pin sharp golf. He was on the opening tee box fully two minutes ahead of Woods and McIlroy, who approached side by side like duellists heading to the Bois de Boulogne on a misty Parisian morn. Anyone would think this stuff was scripted. 

Though Woods struck the ball better on the back nine he failed to convert any of his chances, which was just about the converse of his front nine. After the 79 at Torrey Pines last week Woods was not complaining after a 68.

“I'm going to go work on a couple things here and there but I felt like it was a good day,” he said. “I could have got a couple more out of it, just by making a couple putts from about ten feet or.so. I hit a lot of good putts which was nice. Last week I didn't do it.”

His misses were consistently left, where he claimed he was aiming. Woods is forever locked in a compensation battle with his left knee, which has been rebuilt three times as a consequence of the forces he used to ram through it. Since he cannot deploy his left leg in quite the same way he is forced to compromise with the ‘pull cut’, a shot that aims left before drifting back on line.

When he gets it right “it goes forever”. Yesterday he got the pull bit right but the cut was absent early on. It is a measure of the Woods psyche that no matter how fiendish the trouble, he is rarely out of the hole. His recoveries here were stupidly good, none more so than the par-5 10 – his first -  which he birdied despite not visiting the fairway. 

McIlroy put his recovery down to a renewed work ethic. When asked if it was easy, he said. “I don’t think it’s ever easy. These scores may look somewhat routine out there but there’s a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes to be able to shoot scores like this.”

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
tvGame of Thrones season 5 episode 1 review
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
News
i100
News
people
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Sport
Fabian Delph celebrates his goal
footballChristian Benteke and Fabian Delph turn semi-final after Liverpool goal
Life and Style
Model wears: top £29.50, leggings £25, jacket £29.50, bag £25, all marksandspencer.com
fashion
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace