Sandy start in the desert for world's top two

1/17/2013 5:35:00 AM
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods   (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both found plenty of sand in the desert today as they kicked off their 2013 seasons - McIlroy in his first competitive outing since signing a mega-million dollar deal with Nike.
The world's top two golfers are at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with McIlroy back where he finished runner-up to England's Robert Rock last year, but it was hardly an error-free start.
He failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker on the long 10th, drove into a trap at the 417-yard 11th and then hit his tee shot into another on the short 12th.
All three ended with par figures and then on the 414-yard next he holed a curling 14-foot putt to be part of a nine-way tie at the top. But a double bogey five followed on the par three 15th after his tee shot went way right into the crowd and then the error was compounded as he left it in the rough and then missed from five feet saw him fall back.
Woods' opening drive of the year produced a trademark twizzle of the club, a sign that he was happy with the strike.
It found a bunker, however, and from there he went into thick rough and then over the green, from where his chip barely made it onto the green.
A 20-foot putt rescued his five, but three holes later he pulled his drive behind a bush in the desert waste and after his chip out stayed in the sand he recorded a bogey five.
He is also a Nike player and also displaying the company's "swoosh" logo were the 23-year-old Northern Irishman's parents.
Among those alongside McIlroy on one under were his 2007 Walker Cup team-mate Danny Willett, Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Scot Richie Ramsay.
Three-time winner Martin Kaymer, playing with McIlroy and Woods and a former number one himself, was the first of the trio to birdie, but his 18-footer on the 11th was followed by a bogey at the 13th. But the Abu Dhabi specialist hit back with a brace of birdies on 15th and 16th to go to the top of the leaderboard.

At least McIlroy was not awake in the early hours watching coverage of girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in second-round action at the Australian Open tennis.

Denmark's tenth seed began her match with Donna Vekic, of Croatia, shortly after he teed off, so it was probably left to his manager Conor Ridge to update him with any news. She took the first set 6-1.

He had enough on his mind, though, after a ragged double bogey at the 177 yard 15th sent him down to one over.

His tee shot was fired way right - he shouted "fore" to alert the crowd - and then left his chip in the rough before failing to make a five foot bogey putt.

Woods holed a putt of around 40 feet on the 15th, and taking three strokes fewer than McIlroy on the hole took him back to level par, two behind Willett, Swede Henrik Stenson, England's Lee Slattery and Spaniard Pablo Larrázabal.

McIlroy was hoping to make some amends on the 567 yard 18th, but pulled his fairway wood way left behind a grandstand.

A good pitch followed, but he missed the birdie chance and so turned in a one over 37.

Woods was going much better by then. He holed from five feet at the 17th and was on in two at the last.

Two putts for a second successive birdie enabled him to start the outward half two under, but he hit a shocking smothered drive down the first that did not make the fairway.

Setting the pace by then was Larrázabal, four under after seven holes.