Tiger, Hansen share the lead in Dubai

Updated: February 4, 2006, 7:24 PM ET
Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Maybe shaving the goatee had something to do with it.

Five years ago, Tiger Woods blew his chance to win the Dubai Desert Classic on the 18th hole, sending a ball into the drink. On Saturday, he rallied on the same hole's sprawling green to grab a share of the lead.

"It's a pretty funky hole," said Woods, who played it this time with a ricochet shot, netting him a birdie for a 5-under-par 67 that put his name atop the leaderboard with Danish journeyman Anders Hansen.

Woods is back to his clean-shaven look, saying he got tired of the goatee.

"I forgot to bring my clippers and it was getting really itchy," he said.

After hooking his drive into a grove of palm trees, Woods overclubbed with a 4-iron and landed his approach over the protecting pond and, on the fly, into the grandstands behind the green.

A fan made the catch and flipped the ball down to Woods, who smiled back.

"I had a backboard to hit it up against, which was nice," said Woods, who took a drop, chipped to 5 feet and made his birdie putt on the 537-yard hole, which ends on a sweeping double green that also serves the ninth hole.

None of this was accidental, of course.

"Stevie and I checked it out yesterday, just to see where you're going to miss," Woods said, referring to caddie Steve Williams.

That was typical of Woods' scrambling day.

"He's probably going to say he didn't have his 'A' game, but he still got around in 67 and just showed class," said Hansen, who shot 69 to match Woods at 16-under 200 overall.

Retief Goosen, who was the co-leader after two rounds with Hansen, carded a 70 to fall one stroke off the pace at 15-under. Three more players are two shots behind the leaders -- defending champion Ernie Els, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Australian left-hander Richard Green.

Woods opened with rounds of 67-66. Saturday was mostly survival -- a fight with breezy desert winds, temperatures in the low 80s and adjustments to quickening, drying greens at the Emirates Golf Club.

Woods started two behind Hansen and Goosen, and fell three behind those two at the turn. Hansen stayed steady on the back nine, but Goosen bogeyed three holes on the back nine to fall off the pace.

Woods birdied Nos. 10, 13 and 14 with short putts, capping it with his final birdie on No. 18.

"I hit a lot of good shots on the back nine," he said. "The front nine was kind of all right. I hit some indifferent ones, but I had some good ones sprinkled in there."

Woods is said to have received $3 million to play the event, with the total prize money only $2.4 million.

The world's best golfer is trying for the third time to win this tournament. He lost on the 72nd hole in 2001 to Thomas Bjorn of Denmark, dropping a ball into the lake on 18. Two years ago, Florida neighbor Mark O'Meara beat him by five shots.

A win in Dubai would give Woods back-to-back victories. He won last weekend's Buick Invitational in San Diego in a playoff.

Goosen is playing his first event after a six-week break, the longest of his career.

"I don't know why I struggled to get up and down coming home," Goosen said. "Maybe it was a bit of rustiness -- a lack of practice over the last few weeks."

A member of the Dubai royal family will present the winning trophy -- an Arabic coffee urn. The nation is in a 40-day mourning period for Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai who died this month -- so it's unclear which member of the royal family will be on hand.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press