After announcing his £78milllion deal, McIlroy's tussle with playing partner Tiger Woods was grabbing all the headlines but his battle with his new clubs is likely to be the focus now after his three over first round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf championship.
After finishing last year with five straight birdies and a win it was a different story for Rory McIlroy today - he had two double bogeys in his first 12 holes of the season.
McIlroy was hardly the best advertisement for Nike clubs as he sprayed a tee shot on the short 13th - his fourth hole - and then drove out of bounds on the 439-yard third.
There was also a birdie at the 414-yard 13th and long second, but he had to be content with a par five on the reachable 18th after badly pulling a fairway wood so wide it finished behind one of the greenside hospitality units.
McIlroy had more trouble at the long eighth, going from rough into a bunker and not making the green for three. A bogey six dropped him to three over and that's how he finished.
Nick Faldo described the equipment change from Titleist to Nike as "dangerous" and accused McIlroy of "doing it for the money".
Woods carded a level par 72 to lie five shots behind clubhouse leader Jamie Donaldson who lead on five under. Pádraig Harrington was among the afternoon starters and began brightly with birdies on his opening two holes but bogeyed the third.