With so much anticipation around Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods leading up to the Abu Dhabi Championship, it was only natural that the two had below average days while their third wheel played solidly
Martin Kaymer finished the day at -1, while his opponents were unable to beat par.
Ugly was the name of the game for the two superstars Thursday. A good lie included not having a tree in front of a shot for most of the day. McIlroy saw himself fall apart when he got to the first tee. He knocked it well left of the green, and from there found himself surrendering to the hole that brought many players to their knees.
Though Woods was able to escape the day without the sigma of a positive score, he did not have a good day at all. He was able to recover, and luck into (which I am sure he would even admit) stellar shots that brought him back from the dead. Woods’ putting was on point throughout the first eighteen of the tournament, and good things will only continue for him if he is able to continue the momentum.
Perhaps no other hole could have been a better example of the day the two had than the seventh hole. The pairs 16th hole they played, Woods and McIlroy, after teeing on the par three, watched their ball barely avoid water and land directly in sand. Each player was visibly upset at their attempt, but not thrown off their games at all. McIlroy was first. He lined his shot and, like the rest of the day, used his wedge to save himself. He put his ball about four feet from the pin to set himself up for an easy par putt. He sunk the shot, and walked off the green aggravated, but alive.
Woods second shot was not as pretty as his competitors, however just as effective. Woods set himself up with a more difficult 10 foot putt. But after careful examination he was able to baby the ball to fall. Saving par was far from uncommon Thursday evening. The players at times seemed to be avoiding the greens at all cost, preferring to take their second shot from the think, dark grass that United Arab Emirates offered.
Woods was able to sneak out a final bridie on the course’s par five eighth, his second to last hole of the day. However had a minor meltdown on the green in the ninth. Trying to close out a ‘meh’ day, Woods overshot his target and watched a close range par putt turn into a medium range bogey attempt. He was able to recover and avoid further damage.
Meanwhile, McIlroy sunk deeper in his own hole. He boogied the eighth, and finished the day with a 75, good for +3, he is going to need to refocus if he wishes to catch up with the top of the leader board.
I don’t think it is unfair to say that Martin Kaymer did not do anything special Thursday. Without the pressure that other players in the trio were facing, Kaymer got off to a hot start shooting two under in the back nine. The one hole gave him trouble like it did McIlroy, but he was able to recover nicely on the fifth. It is also not unfair to say that Kaymer benefited from Woods’ and McIlroy’s tough start. Not having to feel that he was chasing the pair, he actually was able to breath the clean air, and glide his way through the first day.
If someone wanted to write any of the three players off this weekend, I’d be a strong opponent. If any of these players are able to figure out their drivers, they will likely take home a top five spot. They were good when they were allowed to step away from the box. I would predict that we see a new type of focus when the players step to the tee Friday morning. It is what is between them and making a statement in this 2013 season.