The speculation has already begun with the 23 year old World No.1 golfer after he shot an opening round +3 over par 75 at The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on Thursday morning. Ss it the new clubs, the distractions from the Ryder Cup selection, or just some rust on his game?
After the “Hello World” ceremony on Monday where Rory McIlroy unveiled his new $200 Million Dollar deal with Nike amid the type of fan fare in which LeBron James relocated to South Beach, he has put the cross hairs directly on his back.
McIlroy teed off early Thursday morning on the back nine with Tiger Woods, and three time Abu Dhabi champion, Martin Kaymer, and seemed to struggle through the first thee holes with his control off the tee. He scrambled, and was able to make pars, but he didn’t appear comfortable. He was able to get to the 13th hole with ease, and made a much needed birdie.
The problems started on the 177 yard par 3 15th hole. He pushed his 7 iron fifteen yards to the right of the green, and with a horrible lie, chunked his chip shot and was still 6 feet off the green. He was shaken enough to pick up the microphone next to his ball, and toss it. The announcing crew even made mention that the sound engineer wasn’t going to be happy. By the time McIlroy got the rock in the hole, he had his first double bogey of the round.
After a much needed birdie at the second hole, McIlroy double crossed his driver on the third hole, and discovering he was out of bounds, had to go back and re-tee. He carded another double bogey before putting another bogey up at the eighth hole. Two birdies, two double bogeys, and a bogey, that was the extent of his day.
Being on the good side of the draw, the marquee threesome teed of in pristine conditions with a light breeze that continued to pick up by the end of their round. On Friday, they will tee off on the front nine, in the afternoon, and will undoubtedly catch the brunt of the afternoon desert wind. After the worse outing McIlroy has ever had at Abu Dhabi, he will need to find his comfort level, and put some birdies on his card if he wants to make the cut.
After this tournament, Rory McIlroy will be taking some more time off, and is supposedly getting with a statistician to review yardages differences between his new clubs, and his old set. He just didn’t appear to be comfortable with the situation, especially when he got in trouble. Even as a higher handicap golfer, I know you can have all the success in the world on the driving range with new clubs, but when you get on the course, and in trouble, your old clubs are like an old girl friend, comfortable.
If you want to check out McIlroy, and his developing relationship with his new clubs, you will have to set the alarm for 3:00 AM Eastern to catch the second round on Friday morning. The time difference between the East Coast, and Abu Dhabi is nine hours. I’m pulling for the youngster from Norther Ireland, but tend to agree with Nick Faldo, why change clubs when you are at the top of your game? McIlroy has publicly said he was more interested in championships than the money that comes with success, but there seems to be 2oo million reasons that he made the switch. That sounds like a contradiction to me. Just saying !
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