The stage was set for golf's leading men to dazzle in their 2013 debut, but Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy's first-round performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship was more lackluster than luminous.
Despite four bogeys, a litany of missed fairways and a drop-kick top snap-hook on No. 1 (his 10th hole) that went only 175 yards, Woods managed an even-par 72 at the 7,600 yard Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
'That's a good score in these conditions,' Woods said of the ever-changing crosswinds Thursday. 'Not a lot of guys are going low today. It's the kind of day to just survive it and come back tomorrow.'
Through 12 holes, Woods missed six greens and seven fairways. He bogeyed his fourth hole of the day (No. 13) and then closed his front nine with birdies at Nos. 15, 17 and 18.
Woods made the turn at 2 under but promptly bogeyed Nos. 1 and 2, his 10th and 11th holes. On his second nine, Woods found only one fairway – his final hole of the day, No. 9.
Meanwhile, from many of the same missed fairways as Woods, McIlroy was dealing with his own set of opening-round issues that were less “Hello World” as they were “Hello Rust.”
McIlroy – playing with his new Nike clubs for the first time – posted two double bogeys, one bogey and just two birdies en route to a 3-over 75.
'I think it's the swing more than the clubs,' McIlroy said. “I wasn't very comfortable off the tee because I didn't feel like I was swiging it that well.'
Through 11 holes, McIlroy found only four fairways. He snap-hooked his second shot at No. 18 (his ninth hole on the day) and hit it out-of-bounds off the third tee.
McIlroy was heading to the range for an afternoon practice session following his first round.
'It's still a little bit of an experimental period,' McIlroy said.
This marked the ninth official round Woods and McIlroy played together, dating back to one year ago in Abu Dhabi. Of the previous eight rounds, Woods had the better score six times.
Martin Kaymer posted the lowest round of the marquee three – a 1-under 71.
Jamie Donaldson grabbed the early clubhouse lead with a 5-under 67.