Playing in one of the first groups of the day, Woods fired a 7-under-par 65 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead in the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club. A group of 11 players, including Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thomas Levet and Graeme McDowell, is tied for second at 5-under 67.
Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and defending champion Henrik Stenson are among 14 players in a group three back of Woods.
"I played well today and just hit a bunch of good golf shots," Woods told reporters. "The only bad shot I really hit today was at the 13th. Other than that, I really hit the ball well and definitely played better than I did last week."
That would be saying a lot. Making his first start of 2008 last weekend, Woods dominated the field at Torrey Pines, extending his lead to 11 shots at one point before settling for an eight-stroke victory. Woods left Sunday night for Dubai following his lopsided victory and apparently brought his game with him.
"I had two good days of practice the last couple days and started to hit the ball a lot better than I did last week," said Woods, who won the event in 2006. "I definitely missed a few putts today. I had a couple of good opportunities to make some putts and just kind of ran them over the edge, but overall today was just great, and I couldn't ask for a better start."
Starting on the back nine, Woods sandwiched birdies on the par-5 10th and 18th holes around a birdie at No. 14. He then added birdies at Nos. 1, 4, 7 and 8 to conclude his bogey-free round.
"I'm striking the golf ball well," Woods said. "I hit the golf ball a lot more cleanly today and shaped the ball better. Obviously (I) drove the ball a lot better, but the shape of my shots was so much better than it was last week."
With Woods' name posted atop the leaderboard throughout the day, several players tried to make runs at the world's No. 1-ranked player but ultimately came up short.
Jimenez had the highlight of the day, recording a hole in one on the par-3 seventh hole, his 16th hole of the day. The ace moved the Spaniard to 5-under for his round, but he failed to make any more progress.
Stenson also appeared set to make a run. He recorded birdies on four of his first five holes of the day but was shut out the rest of the way.
In other news from Dubai, Ian Poulter disputed a magazine article that quoted him as suggesting that if he played up to his capability, he is the only player in the world capable of matching wits with Woods.
"I was misquoted," Poulter told reporters after shooting a 2-under 70 in the first round of the Desert Classic. "It was taken out of context."
February 1, 2008
With stellar play on the back nine at Royal Birkdale, Padraig Harrington shot a 69 in the final round to earn a four-shot victory and become Europe's first back-to-back British Open champion in more than a century. He earned nearly $1.5 million and climbed to No. 3 in the world rankings. "I'm really thrilled with the way I felt today on the golf course," Harrington said. "I hit the ball as pure as I could and just felt really good."
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