Garcia leads the way in Dubai as Tiger struggles


Sergio Garcia set the early pace at the Dubai Desert Classic with a scintillating round at the Emirates Golf Club to sit a shot clear of the chasing pack.

The Spaniard carded a near-perfect opening salvo of 65 on Thursday with six birdies and an eagle, a bogey on the par-four 12th his only blemish.

Starting on the back nine, Garcia was quickly out of the blocks and by the turn he had picked up four shots to leave himself well placed.

He then produced one of the shots of the day at the third to set up an eagle chance, his fairway drive landing just off the green before rolling to within a couple of feet.

Garcia duly sunk that putt on his way to finishing the day seven-under, one clear of Felipe Aguilar and George Coetzee.

"I felt like I played nicely, we obviously got a bit of luck with the weather, it was dry and nice until we got to the last six and it started blowing a bit," said Garcia.

"The holes coming in were a bit tough, so I was very happy to see I was able to play well and pretty much do everything the way I was supposed to.

"I was able to hit some really good shots, some good chipping [and] some nice putting. It would have been nice to have a bogey free round but unfortunately it didn't want to go in [on the eighth]."

Ian Poulter leads a group of four players a further shot adrift, while Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell are well placed on -4.

Defending champion Danny Willett might be disappointed at finishing six behind Garcia, but his playing partner Tiger Woods endured a much tougher outing.

On his return to the European Tour following injury, the two-time champion had a torrid time as he carded a five-over 77.

He failed to register a single birdie on his way round and he faces an uphill challenge to even make the cut given he heads into round two 12 shots behind the early pace setters.

Meanwhile, two groups will return early on Friday to complete the final couple of holes on their first round as deteriorating light brought an early end to Thursday's play.