Rory McIlroy’s first round as a Nike Golf staffer is now behind him, and needless to say there is quite a bit of room for improvement. The much hyped pairing featuring he and Tiger Woods did not quite live up to expectations. McIlroy showed signs of rust in every aspect of his game, struggling from tee to green. He ended the day with a three over par 75. Woods did not strike the ball very well either but managed to stay in it by making some clutch putts late in the round. When all was said and done he managed to shoot even par, although it seemed he played much worse than that.
And while it is very early in the season, one can’t help but wonder whether McIlroy’s big Nike endorsement deal will have an effect on his performance. It is just one round in one golf tournament, but this is a tournament that Rory has had a lot of success with in past years. He came into this week with consecutive runner-up finishes in each of the last two years. His struggles today could have had to do with adjusting to his new Nike equipment, given the fact that he did just announce his partnership with Nike this week. Also, this week is his first start of the year, so it may also take some time for him get re-adjusted to competing at the highest level.
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On the positive side, scores were generally higher all around with the leader Justin Rose posting -5. That puts Tiger only 5 shots off of the lead and Rory 8. And as long as the two can have good second rounds, it will be hard to count them out of contention going into the weekend. As we all know, golf is a game of survival and if anyone has proven that to be true it’s Tiger Woods, who even on his worst outings can still puts up scores that allow him to compete.
It will be very interesting to see how things play out on Friday in Abu Dhabi. It will also be interesting to see how Rory McIlroy will manage his struggles – he has four weeks off after this week and I’m sure he’ll be using that time to master his Nike equipment.