Tiger Woods was able to hang on to his lead Friday at the Dubai Desert Classic, but it certainly wasn't easy.
With gusty winds blowing debris into the players' faces, conditions in the second round were much more difficult at Emirates Golf Club. Woods, who shot 7-under-par 65 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round, needed a birdie at No. 18 to shoot 1-under 71 and stay atop the leaderboard by one stroke over Ireland's Damien McGrane.
"It was not a pretty day out there, so I'm pleased," Woods told reporters. "Anything in the red today or even par was going to be a good score and I'm happy to be in the red.
"Anytime you play in the wind you can make a great swing, do everything right and get a gust and look like an idiot."
Woods overcame three bogeys with four birdies in his round. He was 1 over for the day after a bogey at No. 15, but birdied the 16th and 18th holes to get back under par and push his tournament-leading total to 8-under 136.
The unfavorable playing conditions didn't seem to bother McGrane much. Starting his round at No. 10, the world's 319th-ranked player shot 3-under-par 69, boosted by his eagle at the par-5 third.
McGrane, a former club professional, now finds himself in the final grouping for Saturday's third round with the world's No. 1-ranked golfer. However, he appears to be keeping a good sense of humor about the task that lies ahead for him.
"I think we had dinner in the same restaurant the other night," McGrane told reporters when asked if he had anything in common with Woods. "That's about it."
As if going head to head with Woods isn't difficult enough, McGrane said playing in front of the large galleries that tend to follow Woods should be interesting.
"It's an experience I haven't had before playing with a player of his stature," McGrane said. "I suppose there's nobody bigger in the game, is there? So it has to be a new experience for me, but he has his game and I have my game, and I try to do the best with what I have."
Thomas Levet shot 6-under 67 in the second round and is tied for third with defending champion Henrik Stenson at 6-under 138. Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Ross Fisher, Peter Hedblom, Scott Hend, Gary Murphy and Hennie Otto are in a large group tied for fifth at 5-under 139.
McGrane said every professional golfer should relish the opportunity to play in a final grouping with Woods.
"We want to be out there with the best players in the world and obviously trying to achieve the highest things in the game and, obviously, to win golf tournaments," McGrane said. "That's what you have to do."
Woods admits his knowledge of McGrane is limited.
"I know he's Irish, but that's about it," Woods said.
Asked for advice on how to play in the same group with him for the same time, Woods said the key is blocking out distractions. Chief among those are photographers — professional and amateur — who sometimes can even become a bother to a player accustomed to so much attention.
"I know there's a policy with no cameras, but that's not really happening out here," Woods said. "That's just the way it is. You know, people out here are going to have cameras, they are going to get you in your swing and unfortunately that's just the way it goes.
"People mean well — they are trying to capture a moment, but sometimes it happens to be at the wrong moment."
Ultimately, Woods said he just needs to focus on his own game.
"I've got to worry about me," Woods said. "I have my own responsibilities out there and trying to place the ball where I need to place it and whatever I've got to do, I've got to do, and I'm sure he feels the same way."
February 2, 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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