Tiger Woods pins hopes on weather after familiar failings return in Dubai

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Hopes of playing on into the weekend at the Dubai Desert Classic are not yet in vain. The problem is, they mainly depend on the severity of the freak storm forecast for on Friday which, if accurate, could push the second round into Saturday.

The struggles now so associated with Woods intensified during a grim Thursday in the Middle East. The 14-times major winner, so dejected a figure by the time he stepped towards post-round media duties, did not record a single birdie when posting a 77. On his eighth appearance at the Emirates Club, this was the 41‑year‑old American’s worst round.

The bigger picture is impossible to ignore. Before a competitive ball was struck in anger, Woods spoke effusively about his supposedly competitive future. What transpired in front of huge Dubai galleries was more akin to George Best at Hibernian than .

Woods did not look physically comfortable, putted dreadfully and even when connecting properly saw ball flight that lacked the penetration of the top players in this sport. Barring something akin to a throwback in round two, a second beckons. The sad thing is, nobody really expects the more positive scenario.

“I didn’t hit the ball very well,” Woods said. “I left probably 16 putts short. I just couldn’t get the speed of these greens and consequently it all added up to a pretty high number.

“I wasn’t in pain at all. I was just trying to hit shots and I wasn’t doing a n Shaqiri says he is ready to fire for Liverpool during this hectic run of fixtures.The Swiss attacker made a rare start against Everton on Wednesday and managed to score in the 5-2 victory alongside fellow perennial substitute Divock Origi.Jurgen Klvery good job. At the end I finally hit some good ones but the damage had already been done. I could have hung in there, I could have shot something near even par if I would have mat not freeze against Fiorentina.The Grifone go head-to-head with the Viola, who could also still be relegated, but need to get a better result than Empoli manage away to Inter Milan to stay up. Prandelli said, “It’s marvellous to see and feeling thde some putts, but I made nothing.”

Nonetheless, an element of Woods optimism remained. His logic was thus: a downturn in conditions could pull others in the field back towards him if – and it is such a huge if – Woods himself can post a decent score.

“Hopefully this wind blows tomorrow, I shoot a good round and get back to even par,” Woods said. “That’s certainly not out of the realm of winning the golf tournament. But I have to go out there and do it, I have to go out there and execute. Hopefully it is tough and I can play a really solid round and give myself more looks. I haven’t given myself a lot of looks at birdies and I need to give myself a lot more.”

Woods did at least admit that staying patient has become a problem. “I’m fighting my ass off to try and shoot a score,” he said. “I’m trying to get back to even par and once I get back to even par, try and get one or two under just to try and creep my way back.

“I kept telling Joey [LaCava, Woods’s caddie]. I said: ‘If we could get to even par at the turn, we have two driveable holes, three short ones – maybe we can get to under par for the round, we can get this thing going, we can get it moving.’ It just never materialiseas agreed to let Cutrone leave the club in January.The 21-year-old only moved to Molineux in the summer in a £16m switch, but has failed to make an impression on his boss.Cutrone is now expected to make a return to the Serie A, with Torino interested. I never did it.”

Woods was at a loss to explain what has changed between early December, when he showed signs of promise during , and now. “I certainly drove it better back then. If I knew, I could tell you right now but there’s something that’s different.”

This clearly was not in the script for Matthew Fitzpatrick, the young Englishman who achieved a lifetime dream by playing alongside Woods for the first time. Fitzpatrick duly outscored his hero by eight before asking the European Tour if he could keep his scorecard, as signed by Woods, for posterity.

As if to rub further salt into Woods’s open wound, his long time nemesis Sergio García leads here at seven under par. “Tomorrow is supposed to be really, really tough,” the Spaniard said. “They are even speaking about not knowing if we are able to play or not, as hard as it might blow. So hopefully that doesn’t happen so we can have a nice, normal tournament.”

How Woods would cherish what he once recognised as routine.