Tiger broods on retreat from global horizons to domestic lair

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The Independent Online

With the world No 3 in ascendancy, the world No 1 clawing at his ankles and glorious conditions promising a weekend of birdie- enriched competition, the organisers of this Desert Classic should have been licking their sun-chapped lips last night.

Alas, as always, it now seems, in modern golf, there was a sense of foreboding chilling the sultry air. Tiger Woods' warning that once he becomes a father he will cease to be the "global golfer" obsessed with overhauling Jack Nicklaus's place in history was bound to dominate the first day, especially as he and his wife, Elin, are known to be thinking tiny patter sooner rather than later.

"When I have kids my horizons will obviously be different," admitted the 30-year-old. "My responsibilities will certainly change and the dynamics of my life will alter dramatically."

Until then, it is business as usual, which at least lets us enjoy the sight of a sporting genius somewhere near his prime chasing a "played two, won two" start to yet another season of dominance. Retief Goosen, however, signified that task will be as hard-earned as ever.

The South African's 64 - to lie in a three-way tie with Wales's Jamie Donaldson and the Australian left-hander Richard Green - was special enough even before it was considered that he has played just two friendly matches in the last six weeks. But when Goosen declared: "I didn't even play that well", it was obvious something spectacular had just occurred. "Honestly, I just putted well," claimed the 36-year-old, reflecting on the six-birdie, one-eagle haul. "If you'd have seen how I hacked it around the first three holes you wouldn't have believed it."

Woods would. "I saw what he did in an exhibition match on Tuesday, so no, it didn't shock me," laughed the world No 1. "He putted everything." His jaw also failed to drop when he discovered that Goosen had five weeks around Christmas without touching a grip. "I didn't pick up a club for 24 days before I came back last week," he said. And yes, Woods won that Buick Invitational.

He will fancy following up here, too, despite not prevailing in his previous two visits and despite being three behind someone of Goosen's undoubted class.

Woods' 67 confirmed there is plenty to be had from the Emirates Course, as he began par-birdie, eagle-birdie to lie four-under after four. "Didn't really do much after that," Woods said, viewing the scoreboard ruefully and seeing Henrik Stenson, his much talked-of playing partner, lying upsides. What Woods would have given for Donaldson's finish - indeed, what anyone would ever give.

With six holes remaining the 30-year-old, who suffered for so long from a bad back, was two under and going along very nicely. Six birdies later and he was going along unbelievably. "I didn't really realise how many I was getting in a row until after the 18th," he said, shamelessly. "They just kept coming and coming."

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