Woods comeback falters in Dubai Desert Classic

Woods’ second event of 2017 is going the same way as his first — the former world No. 1 is in danger of missing the cut.

The 41-year-old carded a five-over 77 in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic, 12 shots off the pace of leader Sergio Garcia of Spain.

Woods, who failed to hit a single birdie, also missed the cut in last week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in California.

His much-anticipated comeback this year, after 15 months out following back surgery, has begun in ominous fashion.

Not just for those who believe he can rekindle some of the greatness that brought 14 major titles and 79 PGA Tour wins, but also for fans keen to see Woods stick around a bit longer and maybe contend now and again.

Woods appeared to be moving gingerly at times during his round at the Emirates Golf Club, but he dismissed any suggestion he was still struggling with his back.

“I wasn’t in pain at all,” said Woods. “I was just trying to hit shots and I wasn’t doing a very good job.”

Woods was wayward off the tee and also blamed his putter. “I just could not hit the putts hard enough,” he said. “I left every putt short.” Last week it was the slow pace of play that troubled him.

At Torrey Pines, his playing partners Jason Day, the world No.1, and US Open champion Dustin Johnson also missed the cut.

But Day was quick to lend support to close friend Woods.

“Let him go a year, let him play and go from there,” said Day.

“Just be patient. Let Tiger keep working on the things he needs to and hopefully it will all come together.”

Apparently, Day and Woods were chatting during the second round and the Australian quipped that it didn’t matter in the year when you won tournaments.

“I know we all missed the cut, but you win four at the end of the year, people think you’ve had a hell of a year,” Woods recalled Day as saying during his pre-tournament news conference in Dubai.

Woods also said he took inspiration from his friend Roger Federer’s Australian Open win at the age of 35 for an 18th grand slam title after six months out with a knee injury.

“He rehabbed properly and you can tell how fast he’s moving,” said Woods. “He’s shortened up points, changed his strategy and as you get older, you change your game and you do things slightly differently.”

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy is out injured but watched the Torrey Pines event on TV and told the No Laying Up podcast Woods was “so close.”

“He’s closer than people think, I can assure you that,” the Northern Irishman said.

Woods’ comeback so far might suggest otherwise, but time and patience will reveal the truth.