ABU DHABI - Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both looked short of form on Thursday as they opened their 2013 campaigns at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. World No.1 McIlroy, playing for the first time in competition with his new Nike golf clubs had two double-bogeys en route to a three-over par 75 that left him trailing down in 62nd place.

Playing partner and second-ranked Woods was wayward off the tee as he matched four birdies with four bogeys to come in at level par. The third member of the day's marquee grouping, three-time former winner at Abu Dhabi Martin Kaymer, bettered them both with a one under 69 that left him four shots off the early pace set by Jamie Donaldson of Wales. McIlroy admitted that he had lacked sharpness. "I feel like I was just a little bit rusty," he said. "I didn't drive the ball particularly well which you need to around here because the rough is very thick and I didn't hole any putts. I didn't drive it well and I didn't putt well so I'll have to work on that this afternoon.” Woods said that narrow fairways, thick rough and cross-winds had made it a tough round for all the players.

"Wanted to be able to shoot under par somehow and didn't quite do it," he added. "But I'm right there. If I two-putt the last hole, I'm in I think 12th or 13th or something like that." Europe's choice of Paul McGinley as captain for the defence of the trophy at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2014 had dominated most of the build-up to a tournament which has become a platform for the top players to open their seasons.

But the focus in perfect, early morning conditions switched to McIlroy and Woods, who now find themselves as stablemates of sportswear giant Nike following the Northern Irishman's mega-money deal with the US company announced here on Monday. How he would fare with his new clubs was one of the talking points of the day. He had a solid enough start but things took a distinct turn for the worse at the short 15th (his sixth hole) where McIlroy sent it way long and right.

The 23-year-old Ulsterman looked shocked at how far off target he was and he promptly failed to find the green with his chip from thick rough. The result was a double bogey five and a three shot swing in favour of Woods and Kaymer, who both had birdies. McIlroy remained at three behind his playing partners at the turn, but it was Woods' turn to struggle as he topped his drive off the 1st tee and failed to even reach the fairway 180 yards away. The American eventually had back-to-back bogeys to start his back nine, allowing McIlroy to draw level with him at level par but the world No.1 then hit a wild drive out of bounds at the third and had to go back to the tee. A second double bogey was his punishment as he fell back to two over with Woods at level par and Kaymer at two under.

McIlroy was in trouble again after finding thick rough off the tee at the par-five eighth. He only managed to squirt the ball into a bunker on the other side of the fairway which resulted in another bogey.

Woods birdied that hole with a long putt to duck under par but he three putted the last. McIlroy missed a short birdie putt and both players were shaking their heads ruefully as they completed what had had been frustrating first rounds of the season.

Kaymer found water off the tee and had to settle for a bogey to finish with. Donaldson's 67 saw him take the clubhouse lead from among the morning starters, one ahead of Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain. A further stroke back were George Coetzee of South Africa, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Liang Wen-Chong of China and Ricardo Santos of Portugal.