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
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice