I’m a little late (OK, seven days late) writing about the Dubai Desert Classic which ended a week ago yesterday with victory for Sergio Garcia and ended three days before that, after just one round, for Tiger Woods, yet again smitten by back problems. My reason/excuse for the hiatus is that this blog suffered a technical hitch which is now resolved. Unlike Woods’ back spasms.
I guess at least he had his huge appearance fee from Dubai to cheer him up after his sad 77 on Thursday and subsequent withdrawal, but he didn’t look happy about it. Still less so, I’m sure, when he announced three days ago that he wouldn’t be playing in the Genesis Open in Los Angeles this coming week nor the week after at the Honda Classic. “My doctors have advised me not to play the next two weeks,” he said, “to continue my treatment and to let my back calm down. This is not what I was hoping for or expecting.” I doubt it will be any consolation, possibly the reverse, that given the fact that the LA tournament benefits his foundation, promotional commitments will require his non-playing attendance at Riviera.
Woods and Garcia have never been bosom buddies, with the former always besting the latter when their paths collided in the major championships, such as at the 1999 USPGA, the 2002 US Open and the 2006 Open. There have been rancorous remarks along the way, such as Woods reportedly describing Garcia as ‘Tweetie Pie’ after Sergio wore an all-canary ensemble when Woods outgunned him at Hoylake eleven years ago. In some respects it is hard to characterise their relationship as a ‘rivalry’ given that Woods has won 14 majors and Garcia none, but before proceedings got underway in Dubai, Sergio said all the right things about Tiger signing to the same equipment manufacturer as him in the wake of Nike quitting that business.
‘We’re all professionals here,” said Garcia. “I’m proud he chose to join TaylorMade and obviously TaylorMade were very keen about it. So am I.” As for the prospect of Woods competing again at the highest level, he was more circumspect. “I think to get to that level is very difficult, even for him, because he’s 40 now. [In fact 41.] We’ll see how it goes in the next four or five months.”
It didn’t take four or five days for us to get perhaps some indication of how it might go. Still, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good – and indeed it was a very ill wind that caused play to be suspended for the second half of the day on Friday – and the 37-year-old Spaniard was left with a winning feeling after prevailing by three shots from the Open champion, Henrik Stenson, on Sunday afternoon.
His bogey-free closing round of 68, four under par, lifted Garcia back into the world top-10. “This week was definitely a week where I felt very comfortable with my game,” he said. “I felt like I was in good control of what I wanted to do.” Stenson agreed. “He did all the things you need to do to win a golf tournament, so congratulations to him.”
Sergio is getting married this summer. By way of a wedding present, what golf could give to make him happiest would be a major championship at last. Certainly the smart money would be on Garcia to have more success than Woods at the majors this season…although the smart money isn’t always right.
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