ABU DHABI Jan 17 (Reuters) - Triple former winner Martin Kaymer eclipsed playing partners Rory McIlroy and former world number one Tiger Woods in the opening round of the $2.7 million Abu Dhabi Championship on Thursday.
German Kaymer, who lifted the spectacular Falcon Trophy here in 2008, 2010 and 2011, carded a one-under 71 in difficult gusty conditions in the Middle East while world number one McIlroy ballooned to a 75 and Woods had to settle for a 72.
The trio started on the 10th hole at 0740 local time and were introduced to an excited gallery by European Tour chief executive George O'Grady.
The three players found sand on their par-five first hole but each managed to save par.
McIlroy's game began to unravel when he took a double-bogey five at the 15th. He hit back with a birdie at the long second before he produced an errant tee shot at the third and slumped to his second double-bogey in seven holes.
The Northern Irishman looked on as Nike stablemate Woods made a strong move by birdying the 15th, 17th and 18th but the world number two then dropped back into the pack with successive bogeys at the first and second.
A birdie at the eighth cheered up the 14-times major winner before he made a mess of the ninth and final hole, three-putting from 30 feet.
Neither player looked happy as Woods joined McIlroy at the side of the green to watch Kaymer complete his round.
Kaymer, who is also a former world number one, recorded his third bogey of the day at the last but his mistakes were offset by four birdies at the 11th, 15th, 16th and fifth.
All three trailed early clubhouse leader Jamie Donaldson of Britain who plotted his way to a five-under 67. (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)