Different week, same ol' Tiger
The scenery has changed, the course measured in meters -- sorry, metres -- rather than yards. The time zone has changed, 12 times over. The competition has changed, too, with Ernie Els and Darren Clarke now occupying that space on the leaderboard where we previously saw the likes of Andrew Buckle and Brandt Snedeker.
But the slim, muscular figure conscientiously carving up Emirates Golf Club at the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday was unquestionably, unmistakably the same guy who won the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines just four days earlier, as Tiger Woods shot an opening-round 4-under 68 that left him three strokes behind leaders Graeme McDowell and Ross Fisher.
In advance of the event, Woods spoke Wednesday about the pristine conditions and "perfect" greens at the course. He followed by adding, "I foresee some of the guys shooting pretty good scores this week."
No doubt Woods implicated himself within that designation of "some of the guys." And so it stands to reason that, after a brief bout of jet lag -- "usually takes me a day or two to get over it," Woods said -- he was back to his same old self.
It wasn't just the score that looked similar, either. Let's compare the numbers from Woods' week at Torrey Pines and his opening day in Dubai. Tiger's first-round total was directly in line with the 68.25 scoring average at the Buick. His driving distance average of 306 yards was 11 off last week's pace. He hit six of 14 fairways (he averaged 6.5 per round last week), 14 of 18 greens in regulation (he averaged 13.75 last week) and tallied 29 putts (equaling the exact number per round at the Buick).
Woods made six birdies against just two bogeys Thursday, with five of his red numbers achieved coming in, resulting in a 4-under 33 on the back nine, including a chip-in on the par-3 11th hole. He was also back to his presumptuous ways on the par-5 holes, making birdie 4 on all four of them.
Of course, it wasn't enough to make him satisfied with the result.
"I left a lot of opportunities out there, you know," he told a television reporter after the round. "I didn't putt well, I didn't hit the ball on line with my putts, and it was frustrating because the greens are really nice out there.
"Overall, I felt like I had control of the ball most of the day. I've just got to get organized on the greens."
Despite Woods' unhappiness with his putting, it's hardly surprising, this notion that he could travel halfway around the world and, just days after receiving another piece of hardware for the mantel, put himself into contention at an eminently different golf course. It is still pretty impressive, though.
Yup, different week. Same ol' Tiger Woods.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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