ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — With Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods struggling, unheralded Jamie Donaldson took the spotlight at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on Thursday, shooting an opening-round 5-under 67 for an early one-shot lead.
McIlroy, playing with new clubs following his multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Nike, finished with a 3-over 75 and risks missing the cut. He 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 double bogey 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.
Mclroy insisted his difficulties had more to do with rusty strokes than the new equipment. 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 the fact that it would take time for him to adjust 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, meanwhile, finished a rollercoaster round at even par after "grinding it out." The 14-time major winner had four birdies to go along with 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 Woods, who was five shots behind Donaldson. "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."
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