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Tiger Woods of the US (right) walks with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy during the first round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, yesterday.
ABU DHABI: Justin Rose grabbed a share of the first round lead in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship yesterday on a day when both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods struggled to get their seasons into gear.
Rose, whose last visit to the Gulf in December for the World Tour Championship in Dubai saw him close with a 62, took off where he left off as he went out in four under 32 en route to a five-under 67.
That put him alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson, with rising Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal third equal a further stroke back.
On 69 were a quintet comprising George Coetzee of South Africa, China’s Liang Wen-Chong, Englishman David Howell, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Michael Campbell of New Zealand.
Woods had four birdies offset by as many bogeys for a level par 72, while McIlroy’s first competitive outing with his new Nike clubs ended in frustration as he struggled to a 75 that included two double bogeys.
Fifth-ranked Rose said that his bogey-free 67 in tough conditions on a tough course had been a “perfect start to the season” but that he would not read too much into the eight-stroke gap that separates him from McIlroy and the five strokes lead he has over Woods.
“It’s the first round of the year. There are a lot of factors involved, certainly a lot of factors for Rory involved this week,” he said.
“That’s not his normal preparation with what he has had to obviously encounter the last couple of weeks, I’m sure.
“Tiger shot level and that’s well within the golf tournament. So for me there’s really no surprises there.”
Donaldson had a solid start from the 10th but moved swiftly up the leaderboard with three birdies in five holes from the first.
“I hit two ropey wedge shots on the second and third and I made two birdies from them. So that was a turning point for the day and kept the momentum going,” he said. Playing together and with three-times former Abu Dhabi winner Martin Kaymer completing the grouping, McIlroy and Woods were the day’s big draw.