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Woods continues to struggle with the driver

Bob Harig
January 31, 2014 « McIlroy maintains advantage in Dubai | Chartbeat test »
Tiger is continuing to struggle off the tee in Dubai © AP
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Another poor driving performance left Tiger Woods searching for answers and trailing Rory McIlroy by eight shots on Friday at the Dubai Desert Classic.

After hitting it all over the Emirates Golf Club course during an opening-round 68, Woods was actually worse during the second round, managing to hit just four fairways after finding the first three in a row.

He hit his driver 10 times and found the fairway with it just twice.

"I was on so many parts of the golf course today that I got to meet so many people, signed so many autographs out there, and gave a lot of balls away," Woods joked at a junior golf clinic on the practice range after the round. "But seriously, I was just hitting it sideways.

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The result was a three-bogey, two-birdie effort that added up to a 73 and an early tee time Saturday in Dubai.

"I didn't hit it very good today,'' said Woods, who is tied for 44th and was closer to the 36-hole cut than the lead. He completed 36 holes at 141, 3-under par. The cut was made at 142.

"Ironically enough, I felt great with the putter," Woods said. "But feeling great with the putter from 40, 50 feet is not exactly the best thing. I just didn't hit it close enough. Didn't hit it well. Struggled with it and had a bad warm-up as well. Just one of those days.''

Woods, the No. 1-ranked player in the world who is getting a seven-figure appearance fee to play in the event, again bemoaned the inability to get properly aligned with his tee shots and pulled several into the left rough or waste areas. He made his first bogey of the tournament at No. 5 and, by then, he was struggling to get the ball in play.

He managed just one birdie on the par-5s and had several good par-saving putts or the score would have been worse. And yet, he needed 30 putts on his round, unable to convert any long birdie putts.

Woods suggested that getting the problem corrected should not be a big issue - he actually drove the ball nicely at his last two 2013 tournaments in Turkey and at the World Challenge - but so far has been unable to figure it out in 2014.

"I've been hitting hot pulls, and every one of those things has some serious heat on it, which is nice. I just need to get it online,'' Woods said. "I would rather hit the hot pull than the big flame-out, crop duster to the right. The hot pull is fine because it's easy to fix; it's getting down there and just have to aim it a little bit more.''

If there is a bright spot, it's Woods' short game. He has hit just 11 of 28 fairways and only 22 of 36 greens through two rounds but has gotten it up and down for par 13 out of 14 times. His other two bogeys were 3-putts.

Although Woods has said for two weeks that he is not rusty, he admitted that working his way into the season is part of what he is going through at the moment.

"It's just part of the process,'' Woods said. "I took a long break there and didn't really do anything much. Just trying to get my body organised and that part has materialised and that's nice. Now I just need to get the game to come around - hopefully tomorrow. I need a lot of wind on the weekend and play two great rounds.''

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for ESPN

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