Rex Hoggard is in Abu Dhabi this week to cover the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship for GolfChannel.com. Rory McIlroy started with a 67 playing with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald and in this round, Rory played the way that Tiger has played for years in that Rory figured out a way to dig a 67 out of a round that should have been much higher based on the way he played. During the offseason, Rory spent a lot of time in the gym and his improved physique has been a big topic of discussion on-site in Abu Dhabi. That improved fitness played a big role in McIlroy’s 67 today.
Tiger Woods shot a first round 70 but as he has so often in the recent past, he struggled on the greens with his putter while playing very well from tee to green. Tiger said that he did not feel comfortable on the greens and that makes sense because this is his first appearance in this event. He also struggled on the greens during the Australian Open which kept him from winning but putted better during the Presidents Cup thanks to a tip from Steve Stricker. Tiger says that he is going to spend a good deal of time working on his putting in preparation for the second round.
In his second report from Abu Dhabi, he said that after following Tiger Woods for his first round, he noticed how confident he seemed on the golf course and the fact that he hit 17 or 18 greens in regulation is proof of that confidence. Also, Tiger and Rory seemed to have a bit of a long drive contest all day off the tee. Obviously Tiger struggled with his putting but he seems to feel very good to be just three shots back after 18 holes despite not putting well.
Tiger, Rory, and Luke seemed to be very relaxed together on the course and unbelievably, the World #1 shot a first round 71 and it was as though no one noticed. He showed that he has practiced a lot during the offseason and his strengths continue to be his short game and his putting.
Jason Day arrived in Abu Dhabi with long hair and a full beard and since he had not seen Jason since Australia during the Presidents Cup, Rex did not recognize him at first. Jason grew it during the offseason and his wife, who is also pregnant and due to give birth in July, liked the new look and so he kept it.