Tiger Woods flew on a commercial airline for the first time in a decade and will be hoping that does not harm his prospects at this week’s Dubai Desert Classic.
The former number one, now languishing down in 666 in the world rankings, saw his long-awaited PGA Tour comeback come to an abrupt end at the Farmers Insurance Open last week as he tumbled out of the tournament after missing the cut.
Woods, 41, out for more than a year with a back injury, travelled to Dubai in the middle of a five-week stretch in which he plays four tournaments as he battles to return to some semblance of the form that made him a 14-time major champion.
He usually flies private but took a commercial airliner -- ESPN said this was because of the convenience of a non-stop option from Los Angeles —but Woods appeared tired after the pro-am on Wednesday.
The player estimated it was the first time in at least 10 years that he had flown commerical, ESPN said.
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Nevertheless he told reporters he was in Dubai — where he has twice been a winner — with just one aim.
“If I’m teeing it up, the goal is to win it,” said the American.
“Whether I’m injured, coming off an injury or I’m playing well or I’m playing poorly, if I’m in the event, it’s to win the event.”
Woods faces stiff competition at the European Tour event, which also features British Open champion Henrik Stenson and Masters champion Danny Willett.
While admitting that there is a change of the guard with the likes of Willett emerging, Woods said he took inspiration from Roger Federer’s Australian Open tennis victory at the age of 35 and after a long injury layoff.
“For him to come back, after having to take that much time off, and for him to get the timing, that’s the hardest part,” said Woods.
“As you get older you change your game and you do things slightly differently, and he did that.”
Stenson, who finished in the top 10 in Abu Dhabi in his first tournament of the year, was hoping to improve on that, on what was his home course for nearly 10 years when he was a resident of Dubai, before moving to Florida.
“I think it’s obviously a golf course that suits my game. I won here in 2007 and had some other good finishes,” he said.
“But I think also having had Dubai as my base for 10 years, I’m very familiar with the golf course.
“I played it many, many times, and just the feel of being home again, seeing the familiar faces, it feels great.”