Woods Five Off Lead at Abu Dhabi Golf; McIlroy Eight Shots Back

Tiger Woods is five shots off the lead and three ahead of Rory McIlroy after the first round of the European PGA Tour’s HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi, where golf’s No. 1-and No. 2-ranked players are paired together.

England’s Justin Rose and Jamie Donaldson of Wales lead the event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club at 5-under-par, one shot ahead of Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal. Rose, the world’s No. 5 player, and Donaldson both finished the day with six birdies and a bogey.

Woods, No. 2 in the Official World Golf ranking, had an even-par round of 72, while Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who is playing his first tournament since signing an endorsement agreement with Nike Inc., finished at 3-over 75.

It’s the seventh time that Woods, 37, has scored better than McIlroy, 23, in the past nine rounds that they have been paired together.

Woods began play on the 10th hole and had three birdies over a four-hole stretch to finish his opening nine holes at 2-under. He then recorded the first of three bogeys over his closing nine when his drive on the par-4 first hole, flew about 200 yards and failed to reach the fairway.

McIlroy, who was runner-up to winner Robert Rock at last year’s HSBC event, hit five fairways in the first competitive round with his new driver, and ended the day with two double-bogeys, two bogeys and a birdie. His birdie putt on the 10th hole, his first of the day, went off the green and into a bunker.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, winner of the 2010 PGA Championship, completed the threesome and shot a one-under 71.

After this week’s tournament, Woods will return to the U.S. PGA Tour for next week’s event in Torrey Pines, California, site of his 2008 U.S. Open win, while McIlroy won’t play in the U.S. until the Match Play tournament in Arizona, February 20-24.