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O'Meara uses 'saw' grip to revive career

The Skins Game may be a frivolous piece of nonsense to entertain on America's Thanksgiving weekend but until yesterday, Mark O'Meara's victory in the event in 2002 was the only trophy he had gained since his magical Indian summer renaissance of 1998 when he won the Masters and the Open Championship.

But it was what happened at last November's Skins Game that helped bring about his win in the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday. O'Meara left having earned not a dollar, nor a cent. He finished fourth out of four in an event where Annika Sorenstam was the runner-up to Fred Couples.

O'Meara, one of the best putters of his generation, could not hole anything. Desperate measures were required and his coach, Hank Haney, suggested something he had seen on a trip to Germany. It was a variation of the "claw" grip used by Chris DiMarco and others. O'Meara calls it "the Saw". With the fingers of the right hand on top of the shaft and the thumb under it, the opposite of the natural grip, O'Meara was able to lock the right wrist as when using a saw.

On the perfect greens of the Middle East, O'Meara's confidence soared and he beat Paul McGinley by a stroke. "He putted the lights out for the first two days to keep himself in it," said McGinley, who played alongside the American on all four days. "Then on the weekend he started to play really well."

"We're going to have to get some copyrights sorted out," the 47-year-old O'Meara said. "Trust me, it works. It has certainly rejuvenated my career. I was definitely a little nervous on the 18th green but I hit a lot of great putts under pressure on the closing holes."

Tiger Woods, who was introduced to Dubai by O'Meara, probably left happier at seeing his close friend win than after he lost to Thomas Bjorn in 2001. "Mark needed to feel he could release the blade and build the consistency you need," said Woods, who is not tempted to follow suit. "You know, I've tried all these things but they don't work for me. But then I'm pretty happy with how I putt."

Whether the world No 1 is entirely happy with his form from tee to green remains a matter for his private thoughts rather than his public utterances. But a fifth-place finish added to victory at the Accenture World Matchplay gave him confidence for an important run to come, culminating in the Masters at Augusta next month.

"I've finished in the top-10 in every tournament this year so it's looking good," he said. His next outing is at the Bay Hill Invitational, where he could create history by winning for a fifth successive year. "I'm going home to get some rest for a few days and then I'll start gearing up," Woods said.

* In Miami, Australia's Craig Parry played the shot of the year to win a play-off at the Ford Championship. Parry holed a six-iron from 176 yards at the first extra hole, the par-four 18th, to claim an eagle and beat the American Scott Verplank.