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McIlroy, Woods falter early

Rory McIlroy shoots 75.

Rory McIlroy shoots 75.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — With Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods struggling, fifth-ranked Justin Rose and unheralded Jamie Donaldson had 5-under 67s Thursday for a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

McIlroy, playing with new clubs following his multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Nike, finished with 3-over 75 and risks missing the cut in the PGA Europe event. Woods shot par 72.

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain were at 68.

McIllroy repeatedly missed fairways, including a shot on his 12th that hit a tree and ended up in a parking lot, leading to one of his two double bogeys. His other came when he muffed a chip in thick rough on his par-3 6th. He missed a par putt on his 17th and a birdie putt on the 18th.

The top-ranked McIlroy said his difficulties had more to do with rusty strokes than the new equipment. The 2012 European Tour and PGA Tour money winner seemed resigned to adjusting to the new Nike clubs.

"When you go out and you've got new stuff, you are going to be a little anxious and hopefully you play well," he said. "But I guess I can learn from it and move on and go into (today) and try and play a bit better. It's about playing yourself into the weekend."

Woods, who was paired with McIlroy, finished a roller-coaster round after "grinding it out." The 14-time major winner had four birdies and four bogeys and ended his round by three-putting his 18th for bogey when he hit the second putt too hard.

"I'm still right there," said the second-ranked Woods, who was five shots behind the leaders. "There's not a lot of guys going low out there. These fairways are tiny to begin with, but there are a lot of crosswinds."

Rose said it was too early to make much of his lead, even if he did outplay the biggest names: "I'd be reticent to say I've looked at what they have done and what they have scored and take it and put any value to it.''

pga: Phil Mickelson opened his season with an erratic par-72 in the Humana Challenge, leaving him nine strokes behind the first-round leaders in La Quinta, Calif. Recovering from the flu, Mickelson had three birdies, a bogey and double bogey at La Quinta Country Club, one of three courses used in the pro-am event. Jason Kokrak, Roberto Castro and James Hahn topped the leaderboard at 9-under 63. Kokrak had two eagles and five birdies at La Quinta, Castro had nine birdies at PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Private Course, and Hahn had nine birdies on PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course. "My timing and rhythm was off a little bit," Mickelson said. "My putter was atrocious.''

NEW ROLE FOR WADKINS: Lanny Wadkins will debut as the Golf Channel lead analyst for the Champions Tour today at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii. He was lead analyst for CBS Sports from 2002 to 2006.

McIlroy, Woods falter early 01/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:36pm]

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