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Tiger Woods seeking first Dubai victory

World No 1 Tiger Woods says his PGA Tour victory in San Diego on Sunday has been the ideal preparation ahead of his bid to win a first Dubai Desert Classic title this week.

Woods saw off Jose-Maria Olazabal and Nathan Green in a playoff on his seasonal bow at the Buick Invitational and said he was relishing his third tilt at the crown at the Emirates Golf Club.

"It was a fantastic way to start the year," he told reporters after Wednesday's pro-am event. "I didn't really play well on the first day, but after that I did pretty well.

"It was a great feeling to put the pieces together so quickly at the beginning of the year.

"The golf course (in Dubai) is in perfect shape and it's going to take some good scoring. The weather is perfect and I'm just really looking forward to it."

Woods said the start to his 2006 campaign had been a positive change from 2005 when he had had to focus on major swing changes ahead of the Masters.

"It's nice starting off the year with the checklist not as long to get ready for Augusta than it was last year when I had to make some major changes. This year it is just fine-tuning which is great."

Woods missed out on the Dubai title on his first appearance in 2001 when he found the water on the 72nd hole and had to settle for a tie for second behind Dane Thomas Bjorn. In 2004, his only other appearance, he finished seventh behind fellow American Mark O'Meara.

"The level of competition is always extremely high, so I know I will have to play my best golf if I'm going to win.

"But golf is fluid. It's always evolving, changing, you are never there. That's the beauty of it -- waking up tomorrow trying to become a better player. I enjoy that," said Woods.

Europe's player of the moment, Sweden's Henrik Stenson, said he thought he deserved his place at golf's top table and was relishing the prospect of facing Woods as well as Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, the South Africans ranked third and fifth in the world.

Stenson won the Qatar Masters last weekend after a second place in the Abu Dhabi event a week earlier.

"I absolutely enjoy playing with the best players in the world. I just want to be up there. I have made big steps up the world rankings and I feel that I play well when I am playing with the best players," said the 29-year-old.

Europe's number one Colin Montgomerie, making his second European Tour appearance of the year, said his 2005 Order of Merit success, the eighth of his career, had restored him to full confidence.

"I feel I am walking taller. I am back to the feeling I had in the 90s. I feel comfortable in this position, being number one in Europe again.

"I am great believer that if you enjoy something you are usually quite good at it. If you come to work and really look forward to it then it makes a hell of a difference."

February 1, 2006


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