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Saturday, May 19th 2012, 4:35am

Advantage McIlroy in Abu Dhabi

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy got his season off to a great start as he
shared the lead with Swede Robert Karlsson after the first day of the Abu Dhabi
HSBC Championship.

and Karlsson both shot five-under-par 67s to grab a one-shot lead over another
Northern Irishman, Gareth Maybin, France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and England's
Richard Finch in what was a star-studded affair at Abu Dhabi Club.(


Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, Englishman Robert Rock and Scot Richie Ramsay
shared fifth place on three under after rounds of 68.

whole host of the world's best got their seasons underway in Abu Dhabi on
Thursday, including Tiger Woods, who was satisfied with
g15 driver

that left him on two-under and only three shots off the lead.

World No 1 Luke Donald also started solidly enough with Titleist 712 CB
, though both he and Woods were
outshone by their playing partner McIlroy on the day.

Elsewhere, Spaniard Sergio Garcia started with a 71 as well, though his
score included a spectacular hole-in-one at the 12th, while Lee Westwood opened
his 2012 campaign with a level-par 72 that left him five back.

Less happy with his start will be defending champion Martin Kaymer, who
looked very rusty as he struggled to a five-over-par 77 that leaves him well
off the pace and in serious danger of missing the cut.

wasn't at his ball-striking best on the day, but scrambled brilliantly for his
seven-birdie, one-bogey round.(
g15 driver


Starting at the 10th, McIlroy signalled his intent right from the get-go
with three consecutive birdies from his second hole, the 11th. Bogeys at the
14th and 17th were to follow, but he got one of those shots back immediately at
the par-five 18th to find himself two under at the turn.

A superb pitch from the rough to three feet at the 600-yard second took
him to three under before two late birdies at the seventh and eighth got him to
the five under mark. The birdie at the par-five eighth came in spite of the
fact that he had twice been in the rough before he reached the green.


with Woods and Donald, he said:
"It makes you focus - 7.40 tee times on Thursday mornings don't usually
get me that excited, but this morning it did."

Despite outscoring his playing partners, he was quick to point out that it
was early days yet.

"It's only the first round of a tournament. If it was the last day
and you both have a chance to win I would take a lot of pride from that

admitted he had a hard time reading the greens, but was delighted with
g15 irons

. His 70 contained 35 putts, evidence that he was in the groove from tee
to green.

"By the second hole I was back into the rhythm of playing, which was
good," said Woods. "I would like it to be good on the first hole, but
after a break like that it's going to take a little bit!

His round contained no bogeys, but his problems on the greens meant he
made only two birdies, at the fourth and 11th.

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