WATCH: Tiger on comeback & Dubai return

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CNN’s ‘Living Golf’ caught up with Tiger Woods in Dubai on Thursday.

When asked what his message to fellow Americans is at this time he said, “We’re fellow Americans. And as Americans we come together and we do what’s best for our country.

“And we need to be united, and be Americans. And I know there is a lot of divisiveness as of right now but with time, patience and unity I think will win out.”

On the topic of his recuperation from a back injury he reveals there were “a lot of dark times where I couldn’t get out of bed.”

He also feared not being able to return to the sport due to the pain of the nerve damage.

‘I’d rather have a damaged knee every day than deal with nerve pain again.’ He added, “It’s like hitting your funny bone a thousand times a day. It becomes not so funny.”

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Garcia delighted with Omega Dubai Desert Classic showing

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The 37-year-old hit a 65, making one eagle and six birdies on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club.

On a rare day of bad weather in Dubai, Garcia led the field on Thursday with Felipe Aguilar and George Coetzee (both -6) tied for second place.

Garcia, who is targeting his first title at the Nakheel-based venue, said: "We obviously got a bit lucky with the weather this morning, it was quite benign and nice until we got to the last six holes.

"Overall, it would have been nice to have a bogey free round but I made a bunch of other ones."
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Dubai Desert Classic: Five players to watch

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Here, Sport360 looks at the players to watch out for and the dark horses who could spring a few surprises.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

TIGER WOODS

World Ranking: 666

2016 Race to Dubai: NA

Best results in 2016: T15 (Hero World Challenge)

Last five tournaments: MC-T15-T10-MC-T18

Last five years at Desert Classic: DNP-DNP-T41-DNP-DNP

Desert Classic record: P – 7, W – 2, T-10s – 5, MC – 0

The biggest superstar in world golf makes his eighth appearance at the Desert Classic, with a question mark still hanging over his long-term future in the game. But Majlis is a course where he has done well in the past, and his aura still remains untarnished. Definitely one to watch, even if he is not contending for the title.

DANNY WILLETT

World Ranking: 13

2016 Race to Dubai: 2

Best results in 2016: Winner (Omega Dubai Desert Classic, The Masters)

Last five tournaments: MC-T6-T50-T11-T68

Last five years at Desert Classic: W-T13-T13-MC-T33

Desert Classic record: P – 7, W – 1, T-10s – 1, MC – 2

The reigning Masters champions did not have a good start to the season, but insists his struggles are not a continuation of late last year when he played too much and appeared tired. Missed the cut in Abu Dhabi as he could not get a fade going, but appears confident that he has gotten over his problems. Expect a strong title defence from him.

HENRIK STENSON

World Ranking: 4

2016 Race to Dubai: 1

Best results in 2016: Winner (Open Championship, BMW International Open)

Last five tournaments: T8-2-T9-8-T2

Last five years at Desert Classic: T6-T13-T29-T26-T20

Desert Classic record: P – 16, W – 1, T-10s – 6, MC – 3

The 41-year-old hasn’t had the best of times in the last few years on a golf course that he knows like the back of his hand. But Stenson has carried his form from the end of last year, and after a good outing in Abu Dhabi, has sharpened his game further last week. With his kind of ball-striking, he will always be a threat here.

SERGIO GARCIA

World Ranking: 15

2016 Race to Dubai: 22

Best results in 2016: Winner (AT&T Byron Nelson Classic)

Last five tournaments: T11-T19-T9-T17-T47

Last five years in Desert Classic: DNP-MC-DNP-T17-DNP

Desert Classic record: P – 7, W – 0, T-10s – 0, MC – 2

The Spanish sensation does not have the best of records at the Majlis course, which is a surprise given how good his ball-striking is. However, Garcia is enjoying his life outside the golf course, and is in a happy place after recently announcing he is getting married. The key for him would be how well his putter behaves this week.

LEE WESTWOOD

World Ranking: 43

2016 Race to Dubai: 13

Best results in 2016: Runner-up (The Masters)

Last five tournaments: T8-T13-T52-T29-3

Last five years at Desert Classic: MC-DNP-T9-T5-2

Desert Classic record: P – 21, W – 0, T-10s – 8, MC – 4

Westwood made a strong start to his season with a top-10 finish in Abu Dhabi and his game looks in great shape at the moment. The veteran has an experience of 21 Desert Classics, and that always comes in handy. Before missing the cut last year, he had a streak of 17 straight cuts made. Tee to green, he is always superb, it is the greens that will decide his finish.

DARK HORSES

IAN POULTER

World ranking: 206

2016 Race to Dubai ranking: NA

Best results in 2016: T3 (Puerto Rico Open)

Last five tournaments: T39-T61-T21-T36-MC

Best round at Desert Classic: 67 (2006)

Is playing here after a gap of nine years. Did not do too well before that, but he is now a completely different player. Missed most of last year with a foot injury but showed glimpses of good form in Abu Dhabi. His putting could be key.

THONGCHAI JAIDEE

World Ranking: 61

2016 Race to Dubai: 24

Best results in 2016: Winner (Open de France)

Last five tournaments: MC-MC-T6-T14-T40

Best round at Desert Classic: 67 (2006)

Has played the tournament every year since the turn of the century, delivering three top10s with a best of T3 in 2010. Not in particularly good form, but loves the golf course. The 47-year-old has plenty of experience to arrest the slide.

JEUNGHUN WANG

World ranking: 39

2016 Race to Dubai ranking: 24

Best results in 2016: Winner (Hassan Trophy, AfrAsian Bank Open)

Last five tournaments: W-T11-MC-T17-2

Best round at Desert Classic: Debut

It doesn’t matter if he never played the course before, because he has won all three of his European Tour titles on his debut appearance. Momentum is with the 21-year-old and his exceptional short game is an advantage on any golf course.

THOMAS PIETERS

World ranking: 51

2016 Race to Dubai ranking: 25

Best results in 2016: Winner (Made in Denmark)

Last five tournaments: MC-T40-T34-T14-T31

Best round at Desert Classic: 69 (thrice in 2015)

Hasn’t been in best form since his sensational Ryder Cup debut. But the young Belgian is known for his power hitting and his ability to go low. Has worked hard the last week, so expect him to up the game.

ANIRBAN LAHIRI

World ranking: 86

2016 Race to Dubai ranking: 89

Best results in 2016: Runner-up (Venetian Macao Open)

Last five tournaments: T25-MC-T13-T28-T62

Best round at Desert Classic: 74 (in 2010)

Is slowly getting back to form, with a major positive being he is making a lot of birdies, which helps keep the scoring ticking over and make up for faults elsewhere. Playing his first Desert Classic in seven years. Has become a much smarter player since.

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