Shanghai - Super-long
hitter Rory McIlroy put a new driver in his bag on Thursday, and the bad
news for everyone else is that he can blast it even further off the tee.
A cold putter kept the Northern Irishman from threatening the top of
the first-round leaderboard at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. But
the FedEx Cup champion was hugely impressive off the tee.
Playing partner Bubba Watson, one of the game's longest hitters,
could only watch as McIlroy used his new driver to boom the ball past
him time and again en route to an opening one-under 71, seven shots
behind leader Rikard Karlberg.
McIlroy's equipment supplier Nike's decision earlier this year to
stop making clubs means he is now free to choose the weapons that suit
his game best.
For the first time this week that includes the Taylor Made M2 driver,
also utilised by the world's two top-ranked players Jason Day and
Dustin Johnson, no slouches off the tee themselves.
"I felt like I drove the ball really well," world number three
McIlroy said after his round on a cool, damp day at Sheshan
International Golf Club not conducive to big hitting.
"Look, I've been driving the ball well anyway, but yeah, it was nice to see the ball flying where it was going."
McIlroy tweeted a picture last week from practice in Dubai that
showed he was regularly carrying his drives over 330 yards with the new
"I would say I would have been level (with playing partner Adam
Scott) without it and maybe a little bit behind (Watson) before, and I
was hitting it by both of them so it can only be a positive," said
"Especially when conditions are like this and it's so soft, it
(still) goes a long way in the air. Hopefully that can be to my benefit
over the next few days."
On the eve of the tournament McIlroy remarked that the Nike decision
to end their equipment manufacturing had left him in two minds.
"I felt bad for a lot of the employees that put so much time and
effort into building really good golf clubs. But in another way, it's
given me a little bit of freedom to see what else is out there.
"Now I can be in the position where I can use whatever in my golf bag that fits me 100 percent the best.
"So that could be a certain driver, a different brand of three-wood, a
different branded set of irons, different wedges and a different
"That's a process that I'm still working through."
Leading first round
scores in the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament at
Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, on Thursday (par 72):
64 - Rikard Karlberg (SWE)
65 - Rickie Fowler (USA)
66 - Daniel Berger (USA), Russell Knox (SCO), Hideki Matsuyama (JPN)
67 - Bill Haas (USA), Paul Casey (ENG), Francesco Molinari (ITA)
68 - Dean Burmester (RSA), Zhang Xinjun (CHN), Alex Noren (SWE), Richard Bland (ENG), Sergio Garcia (ESP)
69 - Chris Wood (ENG), Henrik Stenson (SWE), George Coetzee (RSA), Ross Fisher (ENG), Adam Scott (AUS), Lee Westwood (ENG)
70 - Tyrell Hatton (ENG), Jason Kokrak (USA), Kevin Chappell (USA), Thongchai Jaidee (THA)
- Thomas Pieters (BEL), J.B. Holmes (USA), Gary Woodland (USA), Ryan
Moore (USA), Justin Thomas (USA), Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Rory McIlroy (NIR), Bubba Watson (USA), Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)
72 - Martin Kaymer (GER)
74 - Danny Willett (ENG), Dustin Johnson (USA)
78 - Jimmy Walker (USA)