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McGrane relishes rare chance to test Tiger

The closest Damien McGrane has come to Tiger Woods was when eating in the same steakhouse here in town on Wednesday evening. Today, the little known Irish professional will be lining up alongside the world No 1 in the final grouping of the Desert Classic. Rare. Very, very rare. Alas, it will likely turn out too damn bloody.

Whatever happens, at least McGrane had his day in the sunshine yesterday, although that is hardly the best description of the weather that was less Dubai and more Dublin. A swirling wind blew up around the Emirates Course and the temperatures dropped so markedly that, at one point, Woods was actually seen cupping his hands.

Then there was the sand that found its way into every eyelid, up every nostril and made playing golf a far from enjoyable challenge. Imagine Laurel and Hardy with golf bags over their shoulders in that film about them joining the Foreign Legion.

There were plenty of fine messes out there, that is for sure, and Woods was relieved to have avoided the worst. "Pleased with anything in the red today," he said after his 71 nudged his leading score on to eight-under. "It was not pleasant."

He was not just referring to the gusts either – which were so severe that on the 12th he fell out of his shot and "fatted" a simple looking chip – as the crowd were seemingly trying to outdo Mother Nature with their own distractions. Despite a ban on cameras, there was constant clicking, especially surrounding the Woods group.

Asked if he ever got used to such a backdrop of noise in mid-swing, Woods said: "You never do – look at Monty today." Indeed, the irascible Colin Montgomerie did flare up a few times. "That's just the way it is out there," said a resigned Woods. "The fans mean well and they are just trying to capture a moment. It just happens to be the wrong moment."

McGrane, ranked 319th in the world, will doubtless learn all about that this afternoon. The 36-year-old from County Meath is something of a late developer, having graduated to the full Tour in 2003 and his progress since has been steady rather than remarkable, his best finish being a tie for third in the last year's French Open. That is all you need to do nowadays to make an awful lot of money (he has won more than £1m in the past four years), but accepts this pairing will be a massive step up.

"I'm sure it's going to be something very different," he said after a day's best 69 took him to within one of Woods. "It's an experience I haven't had before, playing with someone of his stature."

"I tend to play three good rounds and then play one not so good, but if I keep knocking on the door my time has to come."

For a little while yesterday, he even led Woods, and his two sisters, Erin and Roisin, were not about to miss that chance. They whipped out their cameras – yep, them too – and took as many photos of the scoreboards as they could. Woods will forever be second best on the McGrane mantelpiece.

Dubai Desert Classic Leading second-round scores: 136 T Woods (US) 65 71. 137 D McGrane (Irl) 68 69 138 T Levet (Fr) 67 71, H Stenson (Swe) 68 70 139 R Fisher (GB) 69 70, S Garcia (Sp) 68 71, P Hedblom (Swe) 69 70, S Hend (Aus) 67 72, G McDowell (GB) 67 72, G Murphy (Irl) 67 72, H Otto (SA) 69 70. 140 A Coltart (GB) 69 71, E Els (SA) 68 72, J-B Gonnet (Fr) 72 68, S Hansen (Den) 68 72, S Kapur (India) 68 72, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 70, M Kaymer (Ger) 67 73, L Westwood (GB) 69 71. Selected GB: 141 P Broadhurst 70 71, I Poulter 70 71 142 B Barham 68 74 143 S Gallacher 70 73, D Howell 68 75, M Tunnicliff 69 74.