Irish left in Tiger's wake

Brian Keogh in Dubai

Graeme McDowell and Damien McGrane had to bow to the superiority of Tiger Woods in the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic.

After outscoring Woods by a stroke (72-73) in Saturday’s third round, McGrane paid the price for that energy-sapping experience when they were paired together yesterday while McDowell had to settle for fifth place on 10-under par after trying to pull off a Woods-like rocket at the driveable 17th en route to a closing 70.

McGrane shot a 79 to Woods’s 65 - his round ruined by a triple bogey eight at the last - to slip to tied 44th on level par. But he still relished the experience of seeing “the real Tiger Woods” up close in more ways than one.

Far from the focussed, robotic Woods of repute, McGrane found him to be fun to play with and keen to chat about everything from course design to Irish rugby and even the Irish weather.

“It was good fun actually,” said McGrane after watching successive 85 yard pitches spin back into the lake at the 18th. “He is very encouraging and supportive on the course. He is a good guy. Unless you play golf with him you probably wouldn’t realise what a good guy he is.

“Yesterday he was a little off but it was great to see him firing on all cylinders today. I think he is very real to be honest and that is refreshing to know.”

Woods had kind words for McGrane too, adding: “I feel bad for him with what happened on the last hole. He fought all day and was grinding. You saw how hard he fought yesterday and to make that mistake at 18 was a shame.”

With his hand forced by Woods’s six-under par homeward nine, McDowell found himself three strokes off the pace with two holes to play but failed to emulate Woods in his attempt to drive the 17th.

He drove into a bush instead and made bogey after a penalty drop but was still happy to move up to 20th in the Order of Merit and 16th in the Ryder Cup European Points List.

“I tried hard and went down fighting," McDowell said. "I had a bit of a wing at the green on 17, trying to make a two but overall I had a very good week’s golf and I can’t complain.

“It is early in the season but my game feels in great shape. I am very happy with my last three weeks work in the desert.

Paul McGinley carded a 70 to finish in a five-way tie for 14th on six under par alongside compatriot Gary Murphy, who described his final round 72 as “disappointing”.