Sergio Garcia: Garcia cashes in; posts lead with 65 in Dubai

Woods admits his latest swing has been created to "play away from pain" as he makes his comeback from a back injury which required three operations in the space of 19 months.

The Kiwi golfer shot a four-under par 68 to be in a share of eighth spot, three shots off the lead.

The National's Paul Radley put together this on the contrast in fortunes of Thomas and Woods.

The two-time victor was 12 shots behind Garcia. Taking advantage of a European Tour rule that allows competitors to wear shorts on practice days, Woods hit balls for 90 minutes and practiced putting before going to take part in a promotional appearance on behalf of Dubai.

As noted by the Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker, Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways but needed an abysmal 33 putts on Thursday.

The 14-time major victor, who missed the cut at last week's Farmers Insurance Open, began with a bogey on the par-5 10th and found himself two-over after three holes after another dropped shot at the 12th. "I'm trying to get back to even par, and once I get back to even par, try and get 1- or 2-under".

There were a couple of shots during the round where he walked gingerly after hitting, but Woods said he wasn't in any pain. I just could not hit the putts hard enough. At the end I finally hit some good ones but the damage had already been done.

"I'm really glad I did, because my touch is starting to come around a little bit", Mickelson said. "I've never played Augusta".

Qualifying for one or both of those tournaments is the ultimate long shot, meaning Woods would likely have to add a tournament he has never played if he truly wants to get in the tournament reps prior to the Masters.

Another birdie at the second was followed by a stunning approach and an eagle-three at the next, before Garcia cancelled out a short missed birdie putt at the fourth by picking up a shot at the fifth. "That's certainly not out of the realm of winning the golf tournament".

Speaking on Golf Central on Thursday, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said he hopes Woods is on the path to reviving his game, but he sees something else. I think I have ten years where I won five or more tournaments but there have also been years where I didn't win a thing and I struggled. In fact, with poor weather coming in just ahead of his Friday afternoon tee time, Woods, as he has in the past, is welcoming the potentially lousy conditions as a way to get back in the mix.

  • Angelo Rivera