Golf Capsules: Rose, Donaldson lead by one as McIlroy, Woods struggle in Abu Dhabi - Brownsville Herald: National

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Golf Capsules: Rose, Donaldson lead by one as McIlroy, Woods struggle in Abu Dhabi

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:30 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — With Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods struggling, fifth-ranked Justin Rose and unheralded Jamie Donaldson had 5-under 67s Thursday for a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

McIlroy, playing with new clubs following his multimillion dollar sponsorship deal with Nike, finished with a 75 and risks missing the cut. Woods shot an even-par 72.

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain finished one stroke behind the leaders.

McIllroy repeatedly missed fairways, including a shot on his 12th that hit a tree and ended up in a parking lot, leading to one of his two double bogeys. His other came when he muffed a chip in thick rough on his par-3 6th. He also putted poorly, missing a par putt on his 17th and a birdie putt on the 18th.

The top-ranked McIlroy insisted his difficulties had more to do with rusty strokes than the new equipment that he hyped only a few days ago. While he repeatedly slumped after a bad shot or frowned following a missed putt, the 2012 European Tour and U.S. PGA Tour money winner seemed resigned to adjusting to the new Nike clubs.

"When you go out and you've got new stuff, you are going to be a little anxious and hopefully you play well," McIlroy said. "But I guess I can learn from it and move on and go into tomorrow and try and play a bit better. It's about playing yourself into the weekend."

Woods, who was paired with McIlroy, finished a rollercoaster round at par after "grinding it out." The 14-time major winner had four birdies and four bogeys and ended his round by three-putting his 18th for a bogey when he hit the second putt too hard.

"I'm still right there," said the second-ranked Woods, who was five shots behind the leaders. "You know, if I two-putt that last hole I'm in I think 12th or 13th or something like that. There's not a lot of guys going low out there. These fairways are tiny to begin with, but there are a lot of crosswinds."

McIlroy had two double bogeys in a round for the first time since missing the cut last year at the Memorial in May. The 75 is the highest score the two-time major champion had shot at the National course in Abu Dhabi.

Woods can thank his short game and putter for salvaging the round, saving par on several occasions and sinking several long birdie putts. He had three birdies on the last four holes of his front nine. But he lost that momentum on the back nine, when he mishit a tee shot that led to a bogey on 10, and couldn't hole a short par putt on his 11th.

"I put something up there and lost it," Woods said of his bogeys on the back. "I had another chance at 3 to make another bogey in row and made a good save there. That kind of got it going a little bit. But it was tough out there. I didn't hit it that well. On top of that, this wind just magnifies it. You really have to control your ball today."

Rose came into the tournament saying he felt he was closing the gap on world's top two players and he showed it in the first round. He had five of his six birdies on the front nine, sinking a 50-foot birdie putt on 5 and holing a bunker shot on 9 for birdie. He cooled down considerably after that as conditions worsened, saving par on 17 and then just missing a birdie putt on 18 that would have given him the lead.

"That was definitely a great start, shooting 5-under," Rose said. "I knew it was going to be a tough afternoon, and certainly the wind picked up even more on the back nine. And I guess it was a good scoring day for me and obviously I could see that no one else in the afternoon had made any sort of run, so I felt very good about that score."

Rose said it was too early to make much of his lead, even if he did outplay the biggest names in golf.

"I'd be reticent to say I've looked at what they have done and what they have scored and take it and put any value to it really," Rose said. "It's the first round of the year. There's a lot of factors involved, certainly a lot of factors for Rory involved this week.

"That's not his normal preparation with what he's had to obviously encounter the last couple of weeks, I'm sure. What did Tiger shoot, 1 under? Level? That's well within the golf tournament. So for me there's really no surprises there, and from my point of view, just very, very happy with a good start."

The 47th-ranked Donaldson also showed how to master the course's narrow fairways and overcome the windy conditions. He had six birdies — including holing a bunker shot on his 12th — to go along with a bogey.

"Solid start, played some pretty good golf out there," said Donaldson, who was looking for his second European Tour victory. "Obviously 5 under is a great start. I played pretty good in most of the round but there were times when it wasn't quite on, we made some good up and downs. It was a matter of scoring well and keeping the momentum going."

The conditions were less kind to last year's winner Robert Rock, who finished with a 76. He was joined by Europe's new Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley (76), who also is in danger of missing the cut.

Mickelson opens season at Humana Challenge

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) — Phil Mickelson glanced at the flag about 25 yards away, and surveyed the tall tree blocking his path. He looked again, craning his head skyward, then flashed a boyish grin and reached for his lob wedge.

Following his worst shot of the day with his best, Lefty saved par on the par-3 12th with a full-swing flop shot that climbed nearly straight up and over the 25-foot tree and stopped 2 feet from the hole. It help him salvage an even-par 72 on Thursday in the Humana Challenge in his season debut.

"That was one of my better wedges," Mickelson said. "But, as I was telling my partner, 'You hit it there as much as I do, eventually you're going to learn how to hit those shots.'"

He yelled "Fore left!" a second after impact on the 202-yard hole.

"It was just very bad timing," Mickelson said about the tee shot. "Quick from the top, lower body fast. Just a bad swing. I did the same thing on the next par 3 with the same club. Only it went the other way. I made par both times, though."

Recovering from flu-like symptoms, the 42-year-old Mickelson had three birdies, a bogey and a double bogey at La Quinta Country Club — one of three courses used in the pro-am event that he won in 2002 and 2004 — to drop nine strokes behind the first-round leaders.

"I felt a lot better," Mickelson said. "I took it easy on Monday and Tuesday. It was like Day 10, but I'm fine now. I'm 95 percent better."

Jason Kokrak, Roberto Castro and James Hahn topped the leaderboard at 9-under 63.

Kokrak had two eagles and five birdies at La Quinta.

"I just tried to put it in the right spots, put it in the fairways," Kokrak said. "Out there, that's key. They're tighter fairways and if you can be in the fairway, you'll have a good opportunity for birdie."

Castro had nine birdies at PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Private Course, and Hahn had nine birdies on PGA West's Arnold Palmer Private Course.

"It was a great day," Hahn said. "Chipped two in. Hadn't done that since I was nine."

Russell Henley, the Sony Open winner Sunday in Hawaii in his first start as a PGA Tour member, had a 64 on the Nicklaus course. He's 32 under in his first five rounds this year.

"It was a perfect day," Henley said. "The weather is perfect. The greens were true. So, it's just trying to stay patient and let the birdies come to me."

Mickelson made his first start since tying for second in early November in the HSBC Champions in China, the only event he played after the Ryder Cup.

"My timing and rhythm was off a little bit," Mickelson said. "My putter was atrocious and I've been putting great, too. So, that was disappointing."

Mickelson made his second brilliant recovery shot on the par-5 13th, slicing a fairway wood from the rough on the adjacent 14th hole high over trees and onto the green. However, his eagle try ran 12 feet past the cup and he three-putted for par.

"Gosh, I hit such a great 5-wood to 35 feet for eagle," Mickelson said. "To three-putt that is just, it was just a lot of rough stuff today."

He also scrambled to save par on the par-3 15th, this time shouting "Fore right!" after another poorly timed swing. Turning to the flop shot again, he lobbed the ball over the corner of a bunker to 4 feet.

"When I'm not playing for a while, I really get excited to get back out and I was really amped up," Mickelson said. "I was nervous today and excited to play and maybe a little over-amped because again everything was quick — my rhythm, timing, everything."

Mickelson bogeyed the par-3 third, three-putting from the back fringe, and birdied the par-5 fifth after driving left into a fairway bunker and being forced to lay up. He made a double bogey on the par-4 10th after an aggressive drive over the trees went out of bounds.

"That hole has my number," Mickelson said. "This time, it hit a tree, hit the cart path, went out of bounds by a foot. So, that hole is just my nemesis."

He got one of the strokes back with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 11th, and got back to even par with a birdie on the par-4 18th, hitting an 8-iron from 168 yards to 3 feet.

"I hit a lot of fairways and was able to shake out an even-par round," Mickelson said. "As bad as that is, I've got a low round in me tomorrow, I think. It doesn't feel like it's far off."

Aaron Baddeley, Greg Chalmers and Doug LaBelle II matched Henley at 64. Baddeley played the Palmer course, and Chalmers and LaBelle opened on the Nicklaus course.

Mike Weir, the 2003 champion, opened with a 67 at La Quinta. The Canadian left-hander has missed 16 consecutive cuts and has finished only one tournament — a tie for 70th in the AT&T National in July 2011 — in his last 28 events.

"I drove it well and putted well and everything was pretty good," Weir said. "It was a nice solid round to get off to a good start."

FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker also had a 67 at La Quinta. He's the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 8 in the world.

DIVOTS: Mickelson is opening a stretch of five or six straight events, a run that will end at Riviera or the Match Play Championship. ... The tournament is the first of seven events this year with an expanded field because of the short season. There are 156 players this year instead of 144. ... Defending champion Mark Wilson shot a 77 at La Quinta. ... Robert Karlsson, the Swede who entered last year at No. 24 in the world and had to go through two stages of qualifying school to retain his tour card, had a 71 on the Nicklaus course.

-- John Nicholson

Wadkins to be lead analyst for Champions Tour

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Lanny Wadkins is returning to the broadcast booth as lead analyst for the Champions Tour.

Golf Channel said Wadkins will make his debut Friday at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii. He will be the lead analyst for the 22 events on the Champions Tour that Golf Channel televises.

Wadkins was lead analyst for CBS Sports from 2002 to 2006 until being replaced by Nick Faldo.

Wadkins was recognized for his fearless play and outspoken nature when he won 21 times on the PGA Tour, including the 1977 PGA Championship at Pebble Beach. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.

He says he is excited to return to the booth to talk about players against whom he competed for 40 years.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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