ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — With Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods struggling, fifth-ranked Justin Rose and unheralded Jamie Donaldson had 5-under 67s Thursday for a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
McIlroy, playing with new clubs following his multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Nike, finished with a 75 and risks missing the cut. Woods shot an even-par 72.
Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain finished one stroke behind the leaders.
McIllroy repeatedly missed fairways, including a shot on his 12th that hit a tree and ended up in a parking lot, leading to one of his two double bogeys. His other came when he muffed a chip in thick rough on his par-3 6th. He also putted poorly, missing a par putt on his 17th and a birdie putt on the 18th.
The top-ranked McIlroy insisted his difficulties had more to do with rusty strokes than the new equipment that he hyped only a few days ago. While he repeatedly slumped after a bad shot or frowned following a missed putt, the 2012 European Tour and U.S. PGA Tour money winner seemed resigned to adjusting to the new Nike clubs.
"When you go out and you've got new stuff, you are going to be a little anxious and hopefully you play well," McIlroy said. "But I guess I can learn from it and move on and go into tomorrow and try and play a bit better. It's about playing yourself into the weekend."
Woods, who was paired with McIlroy, finished a rollercoaster round at par after "grinding it out." The 14-time major winner had four birdies and four bogeys and ended his round by three-putting his 18th for a bogey when he hit the second putt too hard.
"I'm still right there," said the second-ranked Woods, who was five shots behind the leaders. "You know, if I two-putt that last hole I'm in I think 12th or 13th or something like that. There's not a lot of guys going low out there. These fairways are tiny to begin with, but there are a lot of crosswinds."
McIlroy had two double bogeys in a round for the first time since missing the cut last year at the Memorial in May. The 75 is the highest score the two-time major champion had shot at the National course in Abu Dhabi.
Woods can thank his short game and putter for salvaging the round, saving par on several occasions and sinking several long birdie putts. He had three birdies on the last four holes of his front nine. But he lost that momentum on the back nine, when he mishit a tee shot that led to a bogey on 10, and couldn't hole a short par putt on his 11th.
"I put something up there and lost it," Woods said of his bogeys on the back. "I had another chance at 3 to make another bogey in row and made a good save there. That kind of got it going a little bit. But it was tough out there. I didn't hit it that well. On top of that, this wind just magnifies it. You really have to control your ball today."
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