Woods triumphs in Dubai


Tiger Woods held his nerve to claim his first Dubai Desert Classic at the third attempt in a dramatic sudden-death play-off against defending champion Ernie Els.

The world number one had lost just one previous play-off on Tour and held the upper hand from the moment his South African opponent drove his tee shot into the trees at the replayed 18th.

Els, who had won the event three times before, found the water with his difficult next shot - leaving Woods, who was not at his best on the last day, with the option of merely parring the hole to win. He duly did so.

Woods claimed the £225,000 first prize to make it two tournament wins out of two since his return from a lengthy festive break.

He said: "Three times I've come close and somehow I got lucky. Today was fortunate. I didn't have it, but the other guys didn't run away with it either. It was special to go head-to-head with my buddy. He's got three (trophies) - so thanks for giving me one!"

But there will be at least three other golfers who will believe they could have won, not least Australia's Richard Green.  The 1997 winner was in pole position to take his second title in the desert with a one-shot lead going to the last. But he took a six - while Els, who shot a superb six-under-par 67, birdied.

Woods was able to make the birdie he needed at the last, his second in his last two holes, to force the play-off.

He had gone into the final round sharing the lead with Anders Hansen and a shot clear of Retief Goosen. But no player, save for Green and Els, looked at ease with his game.

There was no danger of Dane Hansen shooting another 63 as he had on Friday. His two birdies, offset by a bogey, were not enough - with his putting his weak link.

South African Goosen, likewise, shot a 71 to card a slightly disappointing 16 under as he failed to capitalise on one of Woods' less brilliant days = at least for the first 16 holes.

Woods had dropped a shot at the sixth and looked a little out of sorts off the tee, particularly at the 14th where he had to take a drop after finding a rocky spot.

But the 10-time Major winner was able to make par with a sublime 12ft putt, which maintained his momentum, and a birdie at the next put him within two of the lead.

Green had made birdies at 13, 15, 16 and 17 to move to 19 under par and a shot clear, but he drove wide off the tee at the last and then found himself hampered by a tree on his next shot.

The dropped stroke, coupled with birdies for Els and Woods, meant the 34-year-old would have to wait a little longer to follow up his sole Tour win of nine years ago.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez was in the hunt all afternoon. But his three-under 69 was not quite good enough - and he finished two shots adrift, tied with the hapless Hansen.

At 15 under were Darren Clarke and last week's Commercialbank Qatar Masters winner Henrik Stenson, who had played with Woods on the first two days and whose form gradually picked up through the event.

The Co Tyrone man's 67 and the Swede's 68 moved them up the leaderboard - but they had left themselves too much work to do on the final day.

Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane finished in a tie for 22nd place, although Lawrie will be disappointed with a final round of 75 that saw him slide down the standings.