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  • Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Round One

McIlroy toils but Rose blossoms in Abu Dhabi

ESPN staff
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Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy walk down the 10th fairway © Getty Images
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Abu Dhabi Golf Championship leaderboard

Rory McIlroy looked like he needed time to get to grips with his new clubs after he was forced to use them as a measuring device during round one of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, where Justin Rose holds a share of the lead.

McIlroy, the world No. 1 and newly signed to a mega-money deal by Nike, looked out of sorts as he chopped his way around the Abu Dhabi Golf Course, signing for a three-over 75.

Playing alongside fellow Nike star Tiger Woods - who won their duel on day one, McIlroy registered two double-bogeys in a less-than-exemplary start to the season. At the 18th hole - McIlroy's ninth of the day - he even had to use one of his clubs to determine the spot from which he should play his ball after firing wildly off target.

A score of three-over left the Northern Irishman eight shots adrift of joint-leaders Jamie Donaldson and Rose. McIlroy was also three short of Woods who signed for an even-par 72.

"I'm really happy with the way the ball is in the wind. I'm really happy with the irons and the wedge play, but I wasn't very comfortable off the tee because I didn't feel I was swinging that well," McIlroy told Sky Sports.

"On the green it wasn't really happening for me there. But overall I was happy, I just need to work on a couple of things. It's still an experimental period and I've got four weeks after this tournament to get comfortable. But I still feel I can have some good rounds here."

Things started well enough for McIlroy, who made birdie at the 13th - his fourth hole of the day - to mark a confident opening. However, two holes later he registered his first double-bogey, hacking around the perimeter of the green as his touch deserted him.

Woods, by contrast, produced an ugly shot that found the bushes as he bogeyed 13, but then played a super birdie putt at 15 - the hole McIlroy double-bogeyed - to get back on track.

McIlroy was lacking length off the tee in comparison to the American and when he strained for extra yardage he veered off course, prompting the moment his sponsors would not have expected as the youngster used his club as a measuring stick at 18 - where he eventually found par.

A birdie at his 11th briefly suggested McIlroy had found his rhythm, but he left a bogey putt short at the next to drop back to two-over. One further bogey at the par-five eighth completed a disappointing afternoon.

Woods appeared to be getting his game together with three birdies in four holes prior to the turn, but consecutive dropped shots at the start of the front nine saw him fall down the leaderboard. A birdie at his penultimate hole looked to have given him a one-under score for the day, but he bogeyed the last to take a 72.

Rose threatened to post something substantial when he turned in 32, but he only found one further birdie on the back nine before eight consecutive pars.

Donaldson's five-under 67 was built on some fine scrambling as he frequently escaped tricky situations to top the leaderboard. The Welshman was flawless over the back nine, turning at two-under before attacking the front part of the course for a return of four birdies and one bogey.

The closest chasers come in the shape of Thorbjorn Olesen and Pablo Larrazabal on four-under, while England's David Howell is on three-under.

Elsewhere, Martin Kaymer topped playing partners Woods and McIlroy with a 71, alongside Paul Casey and Ernie Els. Padraig Harrington is level with Woods, while recent European Ryder Cup captain candidate Colin Montgomerie was level with the man to whom he lost out, Paul McGinley on four-over.

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