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Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods

Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods

1st ROUND UPDATE: McIlroy (65) leads in Dubai; Woods 6 back





Dubai Desert Classic

Feb. 10-13

Course: Emirates Golf Club, Majlis Course (7,301 yards, par 72), Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Purse: $2.5 million. Winner's share: $416,660 .

Last year: Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez won the first of his three 2010 title, beating England's Lee Westwood with a 4-foot par putt on the third hole of a playoff. Westwood missed a 5-foot par putt on the deciding hole.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Come back, Tiger. All is forgiven.

That’s the message from Dubai – loud and clear.

Even the players who have most to lose from Tiger Woods regaining his World No. 1 status want Woods to play like his old self and start winning majors again.

World No. 2 Martin Kaymer spent much of his press conference here in Dubai expressing his feelings that he wanted to see Woods back to his best. Ditto for Lee Westwood.

“It would be nice for everybody, and for the game of golf as well, if he would come back again,” Kaymer said. “It would be great to play against the best player that ever lived in his top form.

“Lee and me are (World) Nos. 1 and 2, but in every golfer’s mind, he (Tiger) is the best player in the world. It would be fantastic if he can go back to where he was.”

Westwood took over Woods’ World No. 1 crown last November and has been atop the world order ever since, with Kaymer breathing down his neck. He’s also missed watching Woods compete at his best.

“When I’m not playing in a tournament, I’m watching how Tiger is playing,” Westwood said. “I like to see Tiger playing well as much as anybody else. He’s the biggest draw in the game.”

Westwood and Kaymer will get a first-hand opportunity to watch the former World No. 1 up close and personal. The world’s top three will play the opening two rounds together in Dubai.

“That’s what people like to see,” Westwood said. “At other events where you draw the three main champions together, that’s always exciting.

“I don’t think it’s ever happened on the European Tour. Having the top two in the world rankings, and the person that’s dominated the game over the last 15 years playing in the same three-ball would be great for the tour, great for golf. It would draw a lot of attention to the European Tour in a period where sponsorship is very competitive.”

Mark O’Meara acted as a mentor for Woods when he first arrived on the PGA Tour. The veteran feels it’s only a matter of time before Woods gets his mojo back.

“It’s in his DNA to win golf tournaments,” O’Meara said. “He’s a competitor. I realize what’s transpired in his life the last year and a half has been very difficult for himself and his family, which obviously affects one’s game. I believe he’s starting to try to get those things in order.

“It’s good for golf when Tiger plays well, so hopefully this year will be a good year for him.”

Woods, winner here in 2006 and 2008, can start his long journey back with two good rounds against Kaymer and Westwood here in the desert.

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