Indian golfer Jeev Milkha Singh made a good start to his campaign at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as he was two-under through 16 holes in the opening round, even as World No. 1 Rory McIlroy struggled to a three-over 75, here on Thursday.
The Chandigarh golf had birdies on first, second, sixth and eighth holes.
McIlroy’s playing partner Tiger Woods carded even par 72, while Jamie Donaldson shot a five-under 67 to claim the clubhouse lead as more than half the field was yet to finish.
The only Indian to finish was SSP Chowrasia, who shot one-over 73, while Gaganjeet Bhullar was two-over after 16 holes.
Donaldson, already looking forward to his Masters Tournament debut in April after climbing into the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50 on the back of his Irish Open victory last summer, carded six birdies and one bogey at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. That saw the 37 year old lead by one from Dane Thorbjlesen, also Augusta-bound, and Spaniard Pablo Larrazl.
While Donaldson impressed, Rory McIlroy’s first event of 2013 is in danger of ending after two days following an opening 75.
Most eyes were on the World Number One and second-ranked Tiger Woods after they had been paired together for the start of their seasons, but Woods was not much better - a level par 72 left him five behind.
McIlroy, who on Monday had been unveiled as Woods’ Nike stablemate, said: “I feel I was just a little bit rusty.”
The 23 year old’s last outing was his DP World Tour victory in Dubai in late November, where he finished with five straight birdies, but it was a different story on his return to action.
“I didn’t drive it particularly well and didn’t hole any putts,” added McIlroy, whose round included double bogeys at the short 12th - his third - and 439 yard third, where he drove out of bounds.
It was Woods who produced the worst shot of the pair, though. After turning in a two-under 34 his mishit drive down the 405 yard first went barely 120 yards, not even reaching the fairway.
“My game plan was three-iron or five-wood and then I changed,” he said afterwards. “I was not committed to the shot - I should have backed off.
“I had a strategy; I didn’t keep to it and paid the price.”
He followed it with another bogey at the long second and three-putted the ninth for another, but there were also four birdies on his card compared to McIlroy’s two - and it was the ninth time in 12 head-to-head clashes that he had shot lower than the Northern Irishman.
Woods was not surprised that five under was good enough to lead.