DUBAI:Tiger Woods got his bid to win a fifth straight tournament off to a strong start when he birdied the first hole in the $2.5 million Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday.
Playing with Scottish veteran Colin Montgomerie and Sweden's Niclas Fasth, the 32-year-old World No.1 opened with a birdie three to move to one-under for a tournament he has one just the once (2006) in four previous attempts.
He came into Dubai hot on the heels of a commanding eight-stroke win at his season-opener, the Buick Invitational, at Torrey Pines, California on Sunday.
That was his fourth consecutive tournament win stretching back to the tail end of last year and it came wrapped around an uncustomary 10-week winter break for the American.
Woods, who has chosen the bustling emirate of Dubai for his first venture into golf course design, scored his sole triumph to date here two years ago when he defeated three-times winner Ernie Els in a play-off.
In his first appearance in 2001 he lost out Thomas Bjorn at the final hole, in 2004 it was old friend Mark O'Meara who took the title and last year both he and Els were edged out by Sweden's Henrik Stenson.
"I think the greens are a little bit slower that they have been in the past," he said of the impressive Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.
"You have a little bit more grass and I think that's probably because it has rained here. The rough is up a touch.
"They have narrowed a couple of the fairways and they are certainly playing just a touch longer, so the balls are not really rolling as much.
"But all in all, the golf course is again in perfect shape and obviously if the wind doens't blow the guys are going to go really low because the greens are running perfect."
Early pace-setters were Spain's Sergio Garcia who was two-uner through four holes and playing partner Nick Dougherty of England who matched him.