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Tiger Woods heads to Dubai Desert Classic

Tiger Woods, boosted by his playoff win at the Buick Invitational in San Diego, turns his attentions to the European Tour this week to chase the first prize at the Dubai Desert Classic.

The world number one will lead a high-quality field including holder Ernie Els and Retief Goosen when he competes in the $2.4 million tournament at the Emirates Golf Club.

The par-72 Majlis layout is frequently referred to as the 'desert miracle' after it became the first all-grass championship golf course in the Gulf region in 1988, the year before Briton Mark James won the inaugural Dubai Classic.

"I always enjoy visiting Dubai," said Woods as he prepared for his second tournament of 2006 and his third trip to the desert course.

"It is an extremely hospitable place where the people and tournament organisers treat the players so well. The level of competition is always extremely high too so I know I will have to play my best golf to win," he told the European Tour's website.

Woods is almost certainly going to have to subdue the challenge of three-times winner Els, who also captured the title in 1994 and 2002.

The 36-year-old South African is looking to create two records in Dubai.

World number five Els equalled Bernhard Langer's tour record of 69 consecutive cuts made when he survived the halfway guillotine in Qatar last week.

The golfer known as the 'Big Easy' is also bidding to become the first player to stage a successful defence of the Dubai championship.

Els, whose run of successive cuts began at the 2000 Johnnie Walker Classic, was involved in a memorable finale last year.

Trailing playing partner Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Briton Stephen Dodd, Els hit a monster drive to cut the corner of the dog-leg at the 18th.

Left with an approach shot of 178 yards, Els hit a stunning six-iron to 22 feet and calmly stroked home his putt to record the only eagle at the hole all day.

World number three Goosen will be making his eighth visit to Dubai.

Although he has yet to taste victory, Goosen was runner-up to compatriot Wayne Westner in 1993.

Woods, 30, was pipped for the title by Dane Thomas Bjorn on his first appearance in Dubai five years ago.

In 2004, Woods tied for fifth place when his good friend and fellow American Mark O'Meara picked up the gleaming silver trophy.

February 1, 2006


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