Goosen in three-way tie for lead; Tiger 3 back

Updated: February 2, 2006, 4:32 PM ET
Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Jet lag doesn't seem to bother Tiger Woods.

Retief Goosen
Warren Little/Getty ImagesRetief Goosen is one of three players who fired a 64 in the opening round.

He won the Buick Invitational in San Diego on Sunday. Then he flew across 12 time zones -- halfway around the world -- to play at the tip of the Arabian peninsula in the Dubai Desert Classic.

No problem for golf's most international player.

His 5-under 67 in Thursday's first round in Dubai put him three strokes off the lead, shared by Retief Goosen, Richard Green and Jamie Donaldson.

"That's why I work out as hard as I do," said Woods, who was three behind with five others, including playing partner Henrik Stenson.

"You get over it quicker and the more in shape you are the easier it is to get over jet lag."

This is Woods' third attempt to win at the Emirates Golf Club, a palm-lined oasis surrounded by one of the world's fastest growing cities. Dubai is the Middle East's economic boomtown, and the most westernized city in the region.

Woods started with a rush. He was 4-under after only four holes, which included an eagle at the 568-yard No. 3. His drive was followed by a 4-iron over the back of the green, then a chip into the hole from 40 feet.

"I got off to a pretty sweet start," said Woods, who remained at 4-under after nine holes, then took a clumsy bogey on 549-yard 10th. He pushed his drive right, pitched out from under a tree, hit an 8-iron approach into the rough, chipped on and then two-putted from 15 feet.

"I thought I might be able to keep it going, but I lost a lot of momentum on 10," Woods said. "It's a simple birdie hole and I make 6. I really could have put the hammer down on the back nine. But I didn't do that."

Scoring was easy Thursday, and Woods suggested it will stay that way on the 7,264-yard Majlis Course with light winds and temperatures in low 80's expected over the four-day event.

Tiger Woods
Warren Little/Getty ImagesTiger started strong but wound up with
a 5-under 67.

"It [scores] will be pretty low," Woods said. "The greens are perfectly smooth out there, and on top of that the pin locations aren't tight to the sides."

Defending champion Ernie Els was four behind after a 68.

Goosen is coming off a six-week break; Woods came off a six-week break and won last week's Buick Invitational in a playoff. Woods didn't touch a club for 24 days during his break, and Goosen went five weeks.

"I put them in the cupboard," Goosen said. "It's the first time I've done that -- not played for five weeks."

The South African played two practice rounds last week, went twice to the driving range, and surprised himself Thursday with his quick start.

"If I take a six-week break and keep shooting 64, maybe I'll take time off until Augusta," he said.

After missing the first three fairways and scrambling for pars, Goosen picked up an eagle on the par-5 13th, hitting a 5-iron to 20 feet and holing the putt. He followed that with five birdies on the next seven holes and a birdie on his final hole -- the ninth.

"It was nice to get off to that start, and then I had a good run in the middle of the course," Goosen said. "I missed a lot of fairways, but I made a lot of putts."

Green, an Australian who won this event in 1997, said playing at the Emirates Golf Club always improves his game.

"It was nice to get out there and shoot a good score and bring back all those memories of '97," Green said. "It puts you in the right frame of mind for the week."

Donaldson closed with six consecutive birdies -- his longest run of birdies as a professional.

Although the prize money is $2.4 million, Woods is reportedly being paid about $3 million just to appear. His superstar status is evident, with attendance expected to top the record 43,000 for four days.

Woods came close to winning here. In 2001, he lost on the final hole to Thomas Bjorn. In 2004, he finished five shots behind winner and Florida neighbor Mark O'Meara.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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