McIlroy leaves Tiger trailing
WORLD number three Rory McIlroy gave Tiger Woods a taste of what he faces in 2012 by eclipsing the golfing icon on day one of the Abu Dhabi Championship in the UAE.
The diminutive 22-year-old, paired with Woods and world number one Luke Donald, shot an opening round 67 to lie on five-under-par, three shots ahead of the American to take the clubhouse lead alongside Sweden’s Robert Karlsson.
McIlroy's ball-striking was not at its best, but like Karlsson he scrambled brilliantly in his first tournament since recovering from suspected Dengue fever.
McIlroy said: “It was a good score and a great way to start 2012, but I don't feel I drove the ball particularly well and it's something I've got to work on.
“It was nothing that a good practice session won't fix.”
Woods ended a two-year tournament drought last month by winning the Chevron World Challenge, persuading most commentators that he is ready to challenge for major titles and this was his first appearance since that triumph.
Over Tiger's tumultuous two years, McIlroy has risen through the ranks to become a major winner, a Ryder Cup winner and arguably the biggest name in golf at the minute.
Starting at the 10th, the Northern Irishman birdied three of his opening four holes for the perfect start.
Then came bogeys at the 14th and 17th, but he added another birdie on the long 18th despite his wild second shot hitting the hospitality tent.
A superb pitch from the rough to three feet at the 600-yard second took him to four under and then came the added bonus at the long eighth after he had twice been in the rough and just missed the green.
If McIlroy's round was up and down, Woods (pictured left) was solid if unspectacular. Two birdies and no bogeys left the 36-year-old on two under for the tournament. Their playing partner Luke Donald finished on one under for his round after a 71.
Rory's Northern Ireland compatriots Gareth Maybin and Michael Hoey have also made promising starts.
Maybin shot a bogey-fee 68 to lie a shot behind McIlroy in the clubhouse while Hoey finished with a two-under 70.
Graeme McDowell was going steadily until a double-bogey on 17 saw him finish on level par alongside British Open champion Darren Clarke.
Padraig Harrington’s four birdies were cancelled out by four bogies after his first 16 holes which saw him level with Clarke and McDowell.
Shane Lowry and Damien McGrane finished one-over-par.