Fore! Rory McIlroy stuggles with new Nike clubs, smashing ball into a car park

McIlroy will struggle to make the cut at the HSBC Golf Championship in Abu Dhabi

Before the ball flight instructs whether a golf shot is good or bad, the sound at impact lets you know. His tee shot at the last echoed to the sweet thwack of mallet on tent peg and made Rory McIlroy feel a whole lot better about his day. The ball sailed straight down the middle. Not quite Tiger long, but long enough with the new Nike driver he had battled all day. Hitherto he was all over the place, including a car park by the third fairway, courtesy of a ricochet off a tree, which required him to return to the tee for another go.

Considering his struggles off the tee, and his inability to judge the speed of sluggish greens, which on his opening hole, the tenth, saw his putt end up in the sand, a three-over-par 75 was a triumph. He accepts that the battle now is to make the cut. With his old clubs and top form, McIlroy could still strike gold from here. Rust and a lack of trust are two issues guaranteed to kill a round of golf and confidence. And McIlroy was suffering from both in Abu Dhabi. 

“There was a bit of rust, not playing competitive golf for eight weeks. And I guess going out with new stuff you are always going to be a little bit anxious. It was a funny start. First hole, hit it on the green and putted into the bunker. I didn’t drive the ball particulary well, which you need to do around here because the rough is so thick. I didn’t putt well either, so a lot to work on.”

McIlroy repaired to the range in the afternoon seeking the requisite rhythm and commitment. Taking to the course with a card to sign has its own way of exposing brittle confidence garnered in practice. Until he puts a score together in the crucible of competition, the old fluency will not repeat. “It’s a little bit of an experimental period. I’ve been working on it, leading up to Christmas and the New Year, and I have four weeks off after this to work. If I can just get comfortable and swing it a little better I can still play some good rounds here.” 

Playing partners Tiger Woods and Martin Kaymer played far steadier golf in trying conditions but were not without their moments, either. Woods caught his drive fat on the first tee, his tenth, propelling his ball apologetically past the ladies tee into dense grass. From there genius combined with an iron grip to fire the ball down the fairway.

Kaymer was in the water twice, carving his drive on the first and pulling his tee shot on the ninth. The latter was doubly surprising since he was using a rescue club, itself an exercise in damage limitation after a wayward drive on the eighth. Despite recording a bogey at the last, Kaymer signed for a 71. That should have been Woods’ number after ripping his drive at the last but a clumsy three-putt produced a bogey for a level-par 72.

“I wanted to shoot under par and didn’t quite make it. But I’m right there,” Woods said. “It’s tough. The fairways are tiny to begin with and there are a lot of cross winds making them tough to hit. Miss and the rough out there is pretty tough. On the first I changed the game plan and wasn’t committed to the shot. I didn’t want to hit it and just made an awful swing.” 

No such problems for Justin Rose, heading up the second half of the draw, and at the end of the day leading the field on five under par. The world no.5 said he enjoyed coming into the tournament in the shadow of McIlory and Woods. The will be no hiding place if he keeps this up. 

“A good start,” he said. “It didn’t feel perfect, but that was the nature of the day, the nature of the golf course, narrow fairways, cross winds and deep rough, you have to accept mistakes will be made. I’m just happy to be in contention. Now I need to keep the momentum going the rest of the week.”

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower