McGrane's new friend Tiger

By Brian Keogh

Damien McGrane became the latest victim of the Tiger Woods factor in Dubai - but still made a new friend in the world No 1.

The Knightsbrook professional crashed to a final round 79 as Woods scorched round in 65 to take the Dubai Desert Classic for the second time.

But after beating Woods by a shot in Saturday's third round and then playing with him again on Sunday, McGrane got a rare insight into what makes the Tiger tick.

And he was amazed to discover that the richest sportsman on the planet is just another ordinary guy with a great sense of humour.

Up nine places to 310 in the world, McGrane said: “He is a good guy. Unless you play golf with him you probably wouldn’t realise what a good guys he is. I enjoyed it. I think he is very real to be honest and that is refreshing to know.
“It was great to play with him twice, but from the point of view of my own score I probably could have done with something a little less hard to deal with.

“But it was great to see him playing well. Yesterday he was a little off but it was great to see him firing on all cylinders today. Even at that he left a few out there as well.

“He was a bit unlucky there at the last and then he made an incredible putt. That’s what does. The last three or four holes he really came good when he needed to."

McGrane admitted on Saturday that it required a huge effort to concentrate on his own game and ignore the circus surrounding Woods.

Marshals struggled to cope with the huge numbers of fans taking pictures with mobile phones and cameras.

And while McGrane paid the price on Sunday, he says he'd choose to play with Woods every week if he got the chance.

Even when Woods was in the middle of his back nine charge, he still spoke to McGrane and made small talk as they moved from tee to green.

McGrane explained: “It was more enjoyable to play with him. Regarding what I learned, you still have to play your own game and do your own thing. It is not always easy to do that.

"It is part and parcel of the game and it was a pleasure to play with him. You would always choose to play with the best player in the world.

"But I didn’t see that intimidation factor that people talk about when he is in the zone.

"We spoke all the way around and he tries not the get the galleries over excited because then they start encroaching on his space.

"But as regards himself and myself, we talked, especially on the back nine. We talked on every hole about all sorts of things from the design of the course, the speed of the greens, the cameras and the mobile phones to the weather in Ireland. Rugby came up too and American football."

Woods isn't a rugby fan, explaining: "My caddie Stevie is."

But he was generous in his praise of McGrane on both days and admitted that he felt bad when the Kells man put two balls in the water on the 18th and finished with a triple bogey eight.

Woods said: “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.”