With 72, Woods 1 behind leaders in windy Dubai

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He pulled out all the stops on the par-4 17, driving to the back edge of the green on the 359-yard hole. But his chip ran past the hole and he missed an easy birdie putt.

He played cautiously on the 18th, choosing to lay up rather than drive the green. It paid off when he managed to curl in a 30-foot putt, prompting a fist pump as the gallery cheered.

Woods won in Dubai in 2006 and 2008.

McIlroy, who won his only European Tour event here in 2009, also had a dreadful start on a day when about two-thirds of the field didn’t break par. He had three straight bogeys to hand the lead to Garcia, including a drive on the second that landed in sandy scrub and one on the third that ended in the bunker.

Like Woods, McIlroy was able to turn his game around on the back nine with a birdie and a string of pars.

“There’s been a few rounds that I let get away from me … and I didn’t let that happen today which was a positive sign,” McIlroy said. “And I’m still, you know in the lead, tied for the lead … I’m still in there with a great chance.”

Garcia had the most dramatic change of fortunes. After opening with a bogey, the Spaniard made a run with two birdies over his next four holes to take sole possession of the lead.

But he fell apart on the back nine, with two bogeys and then a double bogey on the 17th after his drive hit a tree and he had to drop a ball. That handed the lead back to McIlroy and the others.

Garcia said his failure to hold the lead was “unfortunate,” but insisted he played as well as he could in the conditions.

“I didn’t play the back nine that badly. I hit a couple of bad shots, but I was holding it nicely,” Garcia said.

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