• Abu Dhabi Championship

McIlroy steady, Garcia blames course for injury

ESPN staff
January 16, 2014
McIlroy excited for 2014

Rory McIlroy got his 2014 season off to a steady start with a 2-under par opening round 70 at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

The Northern Irishman, who has set himself a target of winning two major championships this year, carded birdies at the par-4 fifth and the par-5 18th.

The score leaves McIlroy three off the lead, currently shared by England's Matthew Baldwin, Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Frenchman Romain Wattel.

McIlroy, who, along with Tiger Woods, missed the cut in this event last year, said: "I played well and was very happy with how I hit the ball from tee to green.

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"I hit it long and straight and just did not take advantage of some of the opportunities, especially on the last two holes.

"It definitely could have been a bit better but it is a solid start and I was pleased."

Baldwin, meanwhile, recorded his best European Tour finish when he was a runner-up at last month's Nelson Mandela Championship, and continued his form with seven birdies and two bogeys.

"It's been a nice preparation," he said. "Five days in the sun last week helped. It's given me confidence to go on and hopefully keep challenging and maybe a win is around the corner, you never know.

"I want to win. There are plenty of guys that obviously they want to win, as well, but I think looking at the year ahead, top 60 is a target but definitely to get a win under the belt would be superb."

The trio at 5-under lead a cluster of players by a single stroke, including Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and Scottish pair Marc Warren and Craig Lee.

Luke Donald carded a front-nine 32 to reach the turn at 4-under par, but three bogies and a solitary birdie saw the Englishman join McIlroy in a tie for 19th place.

Phil Mickelson parred every single hole until the ninth - his 18th - where he rolled home a bogey to open with a 1-over par 73.

Sergio Garcia had a day to forget. The Spaniard, who ahead of the tournament said his row with Woods was behind his slump in form last year, struggled with a shoulder problem as he carded five bogies and one birdie to finish on 4-over par.

The 34-year-old said: "I have tweaked a muscle and hitting from the rough is not helping. We will see how it feels later. Hopefully I am the only one [to get hurt], but unfortunately the way the course is set up it could happen to more people.

"The problem is they have cut the rough from green to tee and the ball nestles down. Every single ball nestles down and you can't hit it 100 yards.

Abu Dhabi Championship leaderboard

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