Tiger Woods struggles on the greens and Spaniard hit a couple of aces.
Rory McIlroy and Robert Karlsson top the leaderboard in Abu Dhabi
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Robert Karlsson has topped the leaderboard on the first day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
The Swede, who started on the 10th tee, found himself on five-under after 16 holes following seven birdies and two bogeys. He is joined at the top Rory McIlroy, the reigning US Open champion, who went out shortly after.
Tiger Woods weathered putting woes to open his 2012 season with a 2-under 70.
Woods played bogey-free golf that produced few momentous shots and two birdies. He missed several birdie chances, including a six-footer on his ninth, the 18th hole.
"Hit the ball well all day today. It was a good ball-striking round," Woods said. "I had a hard time reading the greens out there. The greens were pretty grainy and I just had a hard time getting a feel for it. Toward the end I hit some pretty good putts, but overall I got fooled a lot on my reads."
McIlroy, who has had three top-five finishes in Abu Dhabi, made three birdies in his first four holes, but erratic driving led to two bogeys on the next four. He steadied himself with three birdies on his back nine, including a chip-in on No 8 from just off the green.
Karlsson and the Northern Irishman are one shot ahead of Gareth Maybin and Richard Finch of England.
Sergio Garcia hit a hole-in-one on No 12, hitting a 7-iron on the 193-yard par 3. His feat was repeated by fellow Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara in the afternoon.
Top-ranked Luke Donald (71) was four shots behind, while second-ranked Lee Westwood hit an even-par 72 and fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer had a day to forget with a four-over 76.
"It's a nice way to start the competitive season, I suppose," McIlroy said. "I didn't feel like I played that good. I definitely didn't strike the ball as good as I have been the last couple of weeks. I think it's just because your first competitive round of the season, card in your hand, you can get a little bit tentative or a little apprehensive."
McIlroy, who calls Woods a friend and was chatting with his playing partner for much of the day, made little of beating him in the first round.
"If it was the last day of the tournament and you're both going in there with a chance to win, I would take a lot of pride from that obviously," said the 22-year-old Northern Irishman, who has talked of idolizing Woods as a teenager and following him during a Dubai tournament when he played as an amateur in 2006 and 2007.
Coming off a seven-week layoff, Woods has said he is fitter than he has been in years and brimming with confidence following his dramatic victory at the Chevron World Challenge last month. That ended a two-year run without a win. Before last month's win, Woods finished third at the Australian Open, and then delivered the clinching point for the American team in the Presidents Cup.
Since the Chevron, Woods has moved up to 25th in the world after falling outside the top 50 last year.
"It felt the same as it had from Oz to the World Challenge to here," Woods said of his game. "I controlled my ball all day and just had a hard time getting a feel for these greens. They are grainy enough where I just didn't quite read them right, and I hit them good, and then the grain would take it, not take it. It was just difficult."
The 27th-ranked Karlsson went to 5-under when he holed a 50-foot putt on the 8th hole, one of his seven birdies on the day. The Swede also had two bogeys.
"I'm very proud of myself, managed to turn something that wasn't very good into something very good on the scorecard and very happy with that," said Karlsson, who joined the PGA Tour and moved his family to the United States last year. "I don't think we are going to play many tournaments this year that's going to be a stronger field than this."