Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy played their first rounds of 2013 in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the European Tour on Thursday. It appears that both have some work remaining to get their games ready for major competition.
We last saw Tiger in his World Challenge at the beginning of December. He shot 70-69-69-71 to finish tied for fourth and eight shots behind the winner, Graeme McDowell.
For the most part of his round in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Tiger played solid golf, although slight misses at times prevented him from posting a very good score.
Woods and McIlroy were in the same grouping with Martin Kaymer, and they started from No. 10 tee.
Tiger posted a 34 and was two-under par at the turn. After a bogey on his fourth hole (No. 13) he made birdies at Nos. 15, 17 and 18.
His problems began at his 10th hole (No. 1). It is a fairly benign par four, only 410 yards long. He topped his driver some 90 yards and failed to even make the fairway. He was forced to gouge a fairway wood short of the green and was not able to get up and down for his par.
No. 2 at Abu Dhabi is a 600-yard par five. Tiger did make solid contact with the driver and hit his second to 122 yards from the pin. He pulled his third left of the surface and again failed to get up and down for par.
Two consecutive bogeys starting his second nine brought him back to even par for his round.
A birdie on the par-five No. 8 and a bogey at No. 9 left him at even-par 72 for the day and tied for 36th, five shots behind co-leaders Justin Rose and Jamie Donaldson.
Tiger appears to be close to form. Just some minor adjustments here and there and he can get back into the tournament. After all, it was his first round after a six-week layoff.
Tiger only hit five fairways and 10 greens in regulation. Overall grade for his first round on Thursday: C+.
In addition to being McIlroy’s first round of 2013, it was also his first competitive round with his new Nike equipment.
It was evident that he is not yet totally comfortable with his new sticks. He was slightly off his normal rhythm and missed shots left and right. At the par-five No. 18 (his ninth hole), he pulled his 3-wood second shot from 255 yards behind the bleachers surrounding the green.
McIlroy picked up a birdie at No. 13 (his fourth hole), but he made a very ugly double-bogey at the par-three No. 15 and turned the front nine in one-over par 37.
A birdie at No. 2 and another double-bogey at No. 3 after hitting his driver out of bounds moved him to two-over for the round. He bogeyed the par-five No. 8 and after a par at No. 9, he posted a three-over par 75 for the day.
He only found five fairways with the new driver and hit 10 greens in regulation. When scrambling, he got up and down three of six times and took 31 putts.
This was McIlroy’s first round since the Dubai World Challenge at the end of November. Rust and new equipment issues were very evident. It was definitely not the type of round that we have come to expect from the world No. 1.
With nine missed fairways, balls hit out of bounds, two double-bogeys and 31 putts during his round, he was lucky to keep his score at 75.
If Rory were giving himself a grade, it would certainly be a fail. We will give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a D for effort.
Obviously, both Tiger and Rory have some work to do to get their games in shape as they gear up for the first major of the year, the Masters.
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