Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both looked short of form yesterday as they opened their campaigns for this year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
World No. 1 McIlroy, playing for the first time in competition with his new Nike golf clubs, had two double-bogeys en route to a three-over par 75 that left him trailing down in 62nd place.
Playing partner and second-ranked Woods was wayward off the tee, as he matched four birdies with four bogeys to come in at level par.
The third member of the day’s marquee grouping, three-time former winner at Abu Dhabi Martin Kaymer, bettered them both with a one-under 69 that left him four shots off the early pace set by Jamie Donaldson of Wales.
McIlroy admitted that he had lacked sharpness.
“I feel like I was just a little bit rusty,” he said.
Woods said that narrow fairways, thick rough and cross-winds had made it a tough round for all the players.
How McIlroy would fare with his new clubs was one of the talking points of the day. He had a solid enough start, but things took a distinct turn for the worse at the short 15th, where McIlroy sent it way long and right.
The 23-year-old Ulsterman promptly failed to find the green with his chip from thick rough.
The result was a double-bogey five and a three-shot swing in favor of Woods and Kaymer, who both had birdies.
Donaldson’s 67 saw him take the clubhouse lead from among the morning starters, one ahead of Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.
A further stroke back were George Coetzee of South Africa, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Liang Wen-chong of China and Ricardo Santos of Portugal.