Tiger Woods: Comeback falters in Dubai Desert Classic

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Woods cards first-round 77 in Dubai

In danger of missing the cut

CNN  — 

The former world No. 1 golfer encouraged Americans to “come together and do what’s best for our country,” speaking to CNN’s Living Golf show in Dubai

Woods’ second event of 2017 is going the same way as his first – the former world No. 1 is in danger of missing the cut.

The 41-year-old carded a five-over 77 in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic, 12 shots off the pace of leader Sergio Garcia of Spain.

Woods, who failed to hit a single birdie, also missed the cut in last week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in California.

His much-anticipated comeback this year, after 15 months out following back surgery, has begun in ominous fashion.

Not just for those who believe he can rekindle some of the greatness that brought 14 major titles and 79 PGA Tour wins, but also for fans keen to see Woods stick around a bit longer and maybe contend now and again.

Woods appeared to be moving gingerly at times during his round at the Emirates Golf Club, but he dismissed any suggestion he was still struggling with his back.

“I wasn’t in pain at all,” said Woods. “I was just trying to hit shots and I wasn’t doing a very good job.”

Woods was wayward off the tee and also blamed his putter. “I just could not hit the putts hard enough,” he said. “I left every putt short.” Last week it was the slow pace of play that troubled him.

LAHAINA, HI - JANUARY 05:  Jason Day of Australia reacts on the first tee during the first round of the SBS Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 5, 2017 in Lahaina, Hawaii.  (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
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02:09 - Source: CNN

At Torrey Pines, his playing partners Jason Day, the world No.1, and US Open champion Dustin Johnson also missed the cut.

But Day was quick to lend support to close friend Woods.

“Let him go a year, let him play and go from there,” said Day.

“Just be patient. Let Tiger keep working on the things he needs to and hopefully it will all come together.”

Apparently, Day and Woods were chatting during the second round and the Australian quipped that it didn’t matter in the year when you won tournaments.

“I know we all missed the cut, but you win four at the end of the year, people think you’ve had a hell of a year,” Woods recalled Day as saying during his pre-tournament news conference in Dubai.

Woods also said he took inspiration from his friend Roger Federer’s Australian Open win at the age of 35 for an 18th grand slam title after six months out with a knee injury.

“He rehabbed properly and you can tell how fast he’s moving,” said Woods. “He’s shortened up points, changed his strategy and as you get older, you change your game and you do things slightly differently.”

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World No. 2 Rory McIlroy is out injured but watched the Torrey Pines event on TV and told the No Laying Up podcast Woods was “so close.”

“He’s closer than people think, I can assure you that,” the Northern Irishman said.

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Woods’ comeback so far might suggest otherwise, but time and patience will reveal the truth.

“I know there is a lot of divisiveness as of right now but time, patience and unity I think will win out.”

The 41-year-old, making his second appearance of the year in Dubai this week, feared he would never play golf again during “dark times” as he recovered from multiple back surgeries in late 2015.

Woods is playing this week’s Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, his second tournament in a row after missing the cut on his 2017 season-opener in California last week.

The Californian says he was rusty at Torrey Pines in what was only his second event back, following December’s Hero World Challenge.

READ: Woods toils on PGA Tour comeback, misses cut

“As long as I don’t have pain, I can play.”

“That hasn’t changed,” he said. “That part is still there. I just need to get to where I’m playing enough tournament rounds to hit tournament shots. Hitting shots with your buddies back home is not the same as hitting tournament shots.”

Woods has won 79 PGA Tour titles, second only to Sam Snead’s record of 82, but none since he clinched five wins in 2013.