Woods is human, Els is grateful

Damien McGrane will forever cash in pints of the black stuff about the day he beat his playing partner, one Tiger Woods Esq, although, when the truth be told and the bar drunk dry, the little Irishman will have to admit that it was on a day when almost everyone in the field beat one Tiger Woods Esq. To call this an off-day for Woods would be an understatement. By his standards he positively reeked.

The upshot of his 73 was that four shots separate him from the new leader of the Dubai Desert Classic, Ernie Els. The South African struggled to remember the last time he had bettered Woods's score by a full eight shots. Els's 65 was indeed a great round, but until he finished and watched Woods struggle in, he didn't realise quite how great.

The portents came as early as the very first drive, when Woods located the fairway bunker. True, he did then splash his mid-iron out to five feet, but this piece of magic was not to define his afternoon; the leaked tee-shot and the missed tiddler were. In all, Woods yanked three putts from under five feet.

By then, everyone had been expecting Woods to repair much of the damage with a birdie-birdie finish, but he followed his blip on the penultimate hole with a plop on the 18th. He dumped his approach into the water guarding the green and ended up carding a most unusual number on a par five – six.

It was his first over-par finish in 21 rounds (the last coming in the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship five months ago) and his first here at the Emirates course in his 19th round. After he had won by eight shots in San Diego last week and begun here like a legend possessed,this display was the last thing anyone was expecting. Least of all himself.

To his credit, Woods was, as always, prepared to front up to the media. When you have won six of your last seven strokeplay events, come second in the other and in this time posted a remarkable scoring average of 66.75, you can probably excuse yourself one sloppy round. But not the Tiger. "It's not good enough," he barked. "I didn't hit the ball close enough on the greens. But I'm not out of it."

Els knows that only toowell. His swing appeared more effortless than it has for manya year and, blessedly, the smile returned to a countenance that has looked worryingly vexed of late. The 10th summed up his magnificence. A five-wood was struck 266 yards to within afew feet, and the eagle was followed by a run of three birdies in seven holes.

"I thought at the start I probably needed two 64s to have half a chance," said Els, "but I still think I need another really low one tomorrow. I can't see Henrik and Tiger and the other guys not shooting low."

Henrik is Stenson, the defending champion, who fired a 67 to lie one behind Els at 10 under. The Swede has two second places in the past two weeks to his ever-more imposing name and may well be the most likelyvictor. Saying that, England's Lee Westwood's form has been almost as purple, and at eight under he is far from done.

But what of McGrane? He came back well in his 72 to remain at seven under, and so the player ranked 319th earned himself the right to tee it upfor the second day running with the world No 1. But it can't all happen again. Can it?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high