This week was supposed to be a big one for the top two players in the world. Rory McIlroy, set to announce to the world that he was in fact a Nike athlete, was paired with the one that put Nike Golf on the map in Tiger Woods for the first two rounds of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. It was a perfect way to begin this new partnership with Rory, Tiger and Nike and at an event both have had success at in the past, it seemed that 2013 would once again be the year of Rory and Tiger.
Problem was, neither brought their golf games on the private flight to the United Arab Emirates.
Rory struggled as much as we've seen him since the weekend at Augusta National a year ago, shooting consecutive 75s that left him well outside the cut line and had him so confused with his game that he switched from a Nike putter back to his old Scotty Cameron after just one round with the new product.
Tiger's week was a little more perplexing. After a three-putt on his final hole on Thursday kept him out of red numbers, his start to his second round was about as dreadful as they come. Woods made bogey on three of his first four holes on Friday at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, a course he co-lead at just a season ago after three rounds, and then came the crazy part.
On the par-4 5th hole, Tiger hit his drive well right into what appeared to be a bushel of vines set in the middle of a bunker. Woods called over playing partner Martin Kaymer to inform him that his ball was embedded in the vines (shocker that Kaymer is part of another "sandy area" incident), and after taking a drop, hacked his ball back into the fairway, eventually making his fourth bogey in his first five holes.
Problem was, the drop wasn't legal because the vines were set in what was considered a "sandy area," and after a spectator mentioned something to a rules official, Woods was approached on the 11th hole and told he would be given a two-shot penalty (Tiger had just made another bogey on No. 11 but to his credit played great after the news, making three birdies in a row on holes 14-16 before a bogey-par finish).
The two-shot penalty left Tiger at 3-over for the week, outside the cut line of +2 which he would have been inside of if not for the breach of the "sandy area" rule. It's a strange rule but in this game of golf there are plenty of strange rules and you have to do your best to abide by them.
Missing the cut in the first event of the year isn't that big of a deal, but it does show that even the top two players in the world can have some offseason rust.
Tiger tees it up next week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he has had a little success at over the years.