DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Dubai Desert Classic began with all eyes on the world’s top three players: Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods. It was supposed to end with a champion coming from third-round leader Rory McIlroy — or Woods and Sergio Garcia playing together one shot behind. But the star emerged from the supporting cast as Spain’s Alvaro Quiros stepped out from the wings into the limelight to claim the $416,000 first prize and the fabulous and priceless giant silver coffee pot.
Quiros’s final round of four-under-par 68 took him to a winning total of 11 under par. It wasn’t as simple as that though. It never is with the big-hitting Spaniard who has a habit of sprinkling his game with equal measures of genius and garbage. His final round contained an eagle, a hole-in-one and a triple-bogey seven after firing his ball into a palm tree. Quiros posted every number from one to seven apart from a six. His scorecard looked like his cell phone number.
“I was lucky,” Quiros said, flashing his trademark smile. “I don’t know if it’s quite normal to make an eagle at the second hole, birdie on the third, make a seven on a par four then make a hole-in-one and finish suffering to win by one. I don’t think many people have been in this situation.”
Woods finished with a double bogey for a three-over par 75 to end the tournament tied 20th at four under par. That’s only the second time in 24 rounds in Dubai that he has failed to break par and the first time in six visits he has finished outside the top five. His calamitous finale epitomized his roller-coaster week, which included two eagles, 17 birdies, 11 bogeys, three double bogeys, 39 pars and one spit — on the 12th green. Nice. He can expect to find a letter and a fine from the European Tour stuck to his locker when he arrives in Tucson, Ariz., in two weeks for the WGC Accenture Match Play.
“A lot of positives from the week but some glaring examples of what I have to work on,” a tired-looking Woods said after his round. “All my old feel is out the window when the wind blows. When it’s calm I hit the ball pure. That’s the thing about making changes. It’ll come. Just need more practice. It’s a step in the right direction.”
A step in the wrong direction was perhaps the continuation of the feud between Woods and Garcia that peaked at the 2006 British Open. It was at Hoylake that Woods battered Garcia (dressed all in yellow) in the final group to win and then reportedly texted his inner circle, “I just bludgeoned Tweety Pie.” The tension between them on the first tee was palpable. Their handshake was of the wet-fish variety, like when two kids caught fighting in the yard are forced to make up and be friends. They headed off down the first fairway 20 yards apart. It set the tone for their round. Not a word was spoken between them for four hours. No chitchat. Nothing. The awkward atmosphere hovered over them like their own personal gray cloud.
Garcia birdied the first and strolled off toward the second tee before Woods had tapped in his par. Gamesmanship perhaps? At the second hole Garcia was so slow and deliberate over every shot he was almost statuesque. Woods clunked a chip, missed a par putt from six-feet and looked hurried and unsettled. A call to prayer drifted across the course as the, ahem, two amigos stood on the third tee. Woods didn’t have his answered. He smashed a drive into the right rough. It was all beef but too jerky. A beef jerky drive, if you like. Another missed putt. Another bogey. Can’t drive, can’t chip, can’t putt.
The former World No. 1 was struggling in the gusting wind and clearly irritated by Garcia’s seemingly endless twitching and lengthy pre-shot routines. Mind games from Garcia? If so, they were working. Woods was rushing as if to make up time. It took them 51 minutes to play the first four holes, which included a driveable par four and a par three. If they had been any slower they would have been playing backwards. There was no joy in their games and certainly it was painful to watch. This was a personal battle. They clearly have issues. But it was a mistake — by both of them. While they were waging their own little smoldering personal vendetta, the tournament got away from them. Woods and Garcia beat each other up into a stalemate to both finish at four under par.
World No. 1 Lee Westwood refused to do likewise despite finishing double bogey, bogey and tied 15th at five under par.
“My glass is always half full,” he said. “I enjoyed playing even though I finished in an ambulance at the end.”