The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 8, 2013

Tiger thrives as McIlroy has rough day at Doral

— DORAL, Fla. (AP) — The comments from the gallery picked up as Tiger Woods kept hitting it close and making birdies, and as Rory McIlroy looked as though he were just along for the ride in the Cadillac Championship.

"You're the real No. 1, Tiger," a few fans shouted as the players walked to the next tee.

For at least one round on the Blue Monster at Doral, Woods looked more than capable of getting back to the top of the world ranking that he occupied for more than 10 years.

Despite two tough chips that didn't reach the green and a three-putt bogey, he made birdie on half of his holes Thursday for a 6-under 66. That gave him a share of the lead with Masters champion Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Freddie Jacobson.

Indeed, the leaderboard resembled a convention of stars that made it feel like a World Golf Championship. Ten of the top 15 players were from the top 20 in the world, a group that included Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter.

Missing from the mix was McIlroy.

The world's No. 1 player was a model of uncertainty on the tee, as if he were uncertain where the ball was going.

He hit only three fairways and took 31 putts. He was never under par at any point in his round. McIlroy's best shot was out of the rough on the par-5 first hole, where he made a 15-foot eagle putt from the fringe to get back to even. He then made three straight bogeys — a three-putt from 80 feet (the first putt was 20 feet short), a hooked drive that forced him to hit a wedge over a tree and back to the fairway, and another three-putt bogey on the fourth.

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