|Woods, left, is playing in a three-ball with the world numbers one and two [GALLO/GETTY]
An eagle on the 18th helped Tiger Woods save face on the opening day of the Dubai Desert Classic as the former world number one was upstaged by his successor Lee Westwood and number two Martin Kaymer as the world's top golfers played together in a three-ball.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy led the field at the end of Thursday's first round with a seven-under 65, ahead of Sergio Garcia and Thomas Aiken.
Briton Westwood and German Kaymer both shot three-under-par 69s to Woods's 71, though the 14-times major winner needed a brilliant second shot to just five feet at the par-five final hole for an eagle to rescue his round.
It was the first time in 17 years that the world's top three golfers have competed in a regular European Tour event and crowds flocked to see the trio walk the course together.
World number three Woods thrilled fans with a deft lob-wedge shot over a bunker at the 10th ahead of sinking a 20-foot birdie at the next hole before his eagle at the last.
"I needed that eagle at the last as it was one of those days I fought hard where unfortunately I went two-over par on two different occasions," he said after his round, to lie six shots adrift of early pacesetter McIlroy.
"I missed a lot of putts out there early on, as I had three easy looks and three bad putts.
"They were just terrible putts but for some reason I just managed to settle down and hit pure putts all day.
"But then I'm only six back, and tomorrow we have fresh greens and probably a bit less wind than what we had this afternoon, so hopefully I can do the same thing tomorrow morning," the 35-year-old added.
While Westwood is a familiar face to the American, it was the first occasion he had played in the company of Kaymer who can rise to number one in the world this week if he wins and Westwood finishes outside the top two.
"I'm very impressed with Martin and you can see why he's won so many tournaments over the last 18 months," said Woods of the 26-year-old 2010 US PGA Championship winner.
"He's very steady. Keeps his emotions in check. He plays some shots that kind of impressed me as to how far he can hit it, because I've not seen him hit a ball.
"I've only seen him on TV and TV doesn't really do justice sometimes. But he can move it out there."
Wearing a smile after a long day Woods hosted a clinic on the practice range for a large number of Emirati children after his round.