Rose blooms as McIlroy wilts in Abu Dhabi

Justin Rose came out of the shadows of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy again today to underline what a force he has also become in golf.

After McIlroy struggled to a 75 with his new Nike equipment and Woods began his season with a real mixed bag of a 72 - including one shocking drive - Rose marked his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship debut with a five-under-par 67.

The world number five shares the lead with Welshman Jamie Donaldson, both of them having holed a bunker shot as they established a one-stroke advantage over Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal.

They would have been pleased with their position regardless of who was in the field, but to have the game's top two players five and eight strokes back respectively made them enjoy dinner even more.

Donaldson beat McIlroy when he won his only European Tour title at the Irish Open last July, but Rose knows what it is like to beat both.

He did that twice last year, first in the world championship title in Miami in March - Woods was already way out of contention when he withdrew injured on the final day - and then in the unofficial World Golf Final in Turkey in October.

What he most wants that they have is a major title, but by finishing last season with a course record 62 in Dubai - McIlroy beat him with five closing birdies - hopes are high for 2013.

He actually set off with a bogey, but by the time he made it from the sand beside the ninth green he was four under and getting up and down from another bunker at the long next took him alongside Donaldson.

After that it was pars all the way, although not always easily.

Donaldson's maiden triumph at Royal Portrush six months ago in his 255th Tour start helped to propel him into the sport's top 50 and the biggest reward for that is that he will make his US Masters debut in April.

He has just been engaged in some banter with this week's defending champion Robert Rock by sending him a picture of his Augusta invitation and asking if the Englishman had got his.

Rock is back outside the top 100 as he was when he beat Woods head-to-head a year ago and will he be able to join his close friend if he makes it into the top 50 by the end of March.

His chances of that were not helped this afternoon when he signed for a 76.


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