McDowell finds oasis in desert

From Brian Keogh in Dubai

Graeme McDowell left Dubai with a spring in his step after grabbing fifth place behind Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic.

The 28 year old Ulsterman finished just four strokes behind the world No 1 on 10-under par after closing with a two under par 70.

And there were also smiles from Damien McGrane despite finishing with a triple bogey eight and shooting a 79 alongside playing partner Woods in the final round.

In the thick of the action for most of the day, McDowell was just three strokes off the pace with two holes to play but bogeyed the 17th when he tried to emulate Woods by driving the green and found a bush instead.

But was still delighted to move up to 20th in the Order of Merit and 16th in the Ryder Cup European Points List after claiming a cheque for €72,241.

“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."

After outshooting Woods (72-73) in Saturday’s third round, McGrane twice screwed an 85 wedge shot off the 18th green in the water to finish 14 shots behind Woods when they were paired together for the second day in row.

But he still relished the experience of seeing “the real Tiger Woods” up close in more ways than one.

“It was good fun actually,” McGrane said. “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. I played okay and hit the ball well in my own way.”

Woods paid tribute to McGrane’s fighting qualities, 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.”

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”.