(CNN) -- Rory McIlroy says he is desperate to get back on track in Abu Dhabi after a disappointing first round of the new season.
Fresh from signing his new bumper multi-year deal with Nike, McIlroy struggled to adapt to his new clubs and hit two double bogeys on his way to a three-over-par 75.
Playing alongside stablemate Tiger Woods, who finished level for the day, McIlroy failed to impress on his return to the course where he came second behind Robert Rock last year.
But the World No.1 says he will improve when he steps out for his second round Friday.
"Yeah, a bit of rust for sure," he told reporters, after being asked why he started so poorly.
"Not playing any competitive golf for eight weeks. I guess when you're going out with new stuff, you're always going to be a little bit anxious about hitting it close like you've done on the range and today that wasn't quite the case. Hopefully I can do that tomorrow.
"I was really happy with the way the ball is in the wind. I was really happy with the irons and the wedge play.
"I wasn't very comfortable off the tee, but just because I didn't feel like I was swinging it that well."
McIlroy's European Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose leads the way on five-under-par alongside Irish Open champion Jamie Donaldson.
Rose shot a bogey-free round of 67 but is expecting both Woods and McIlroy to threaten as the competition progresses.
"It's the first round of the year. There are a lot of factors involved, certainly a lot of factors for Rory involved this week," he said.
"That's not his normal preparation with what he has had to obviously encounter the last couple of weeks, I'm sure.
"Tiger shot level and that's well within the golf tournament. So for me there's really no surprises there."
Defending champion Rock finished on 76, while Ernie Els, playing alongside Rock and Rose, had a 71, the same as Martin Kaymer.