Tiger Woods was on his game, and so were most of the world best golfers Thursday in the Cadillac Championship.
Except for the world’s No. 1 player.
Woods made nine birdies on the Blue Monster at Doral for a 6-under 66 that put him in a five-way share of the lead with Masters champion Bubba Watson, former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Freddie Jacobson.
This World Golf Championship lived up to its name with Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan among those one shot behind.
But it was another rough day for Rory McIlroy.
He hit only three fairways and made six bogeys that kept him at par or worse on a perfect day for scoring. Despite making a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 first hole, and lacing a 5-iron over the water for another eagle attempt on the par-5 eighth that narrowly missed, the best he could manage was a 73.
McIlroy has yet to break par this year.
“It was a bit of a struggle, to be honest,” McIlroy said to Sky Sports. “Hit some good shots. Hit some not-so-good shots. As I’ve been saying all week, this is a work in progress and I’m working at it and I’m staying patient.”
He declined to speak to reporters, grabbing a quick lunch and smiling at screaming fans who wanted his autograph as he headed to the practice range.
McIlroy played alongside Woods and Luke Donald — Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world — and while this essentially is a home game for Woods having won three times at Doral, the occasional shouts of “You’re the real No. 1, Tiger” rang true.
Coming off a pedestrian performance a week ago at the Honda Classic, Woods looked sharp in most aspects of his game, except for a few lapses with his chipping. He wasted two early birdies with a three-putt bogey on the 13th hole and a delicate flop shot that he flubbed on the 14th, leading to another bogey. His chip up the slope on the third didn’t reach the green for another bogey.
That’s all that was wrong.
He holed two long birdie putts, including a sliding, slippery putt from about 40 feet on the par-3 fourth hole, and missed four reasonable chances inside 15 feet.