McGirt set to tee it up at Honda Classic

Pre-Masters win not vital, says Rory McIlroy

Having spent 10 months on the side-lines a year ago while recovering from spinal fusion surgery, Woods will contest this weeks' Honda Classic in Florida after missing the cut at Riviera Country Club last week. Back then, the tournament was held at Weston Hill G&C. He is still aware, however, that the Champions course here largely represents the origin of his back problems. Padraig Harrington, who had plumbed the depths of despair, came from nowhere to win the tournament. Previously, he finished T-23 at the Farmers Insurance Open and missed the cut at the Genesis Open. "The 17th here is an incredibly hard shot under a lot of pressure", said Padraig Harrington, a two-time Honda victor.

Woods hit 7 out of 14 fairways and made 10 out of 18 greens in regulation. I know most of the guys have been playing tournament golf a lot more than I have. I felt like I was hanging on pretty well. "He didn't want me to be excited". Winner's share: $1,188,000. Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 p.m. (CBS Sports).

"Phoenix was a good prep for me", Kizzire said. Thomas doesn't have the most impressive course form figures but that could make him a sneaky good pick this week. He will likely receive no respite from Genesis-type antics - especially from the well-lubed patrons in party areas on PGA National's 17th hole, where several establishments serve adult beverages. Woods needed only 25 putts, scrambling for par six times.

According to CBS12 in Palm Beach, Woods' caddie Joe LaCava was made aware of Shanahan's presence at the event, and Woods called him over before the pro-am on Wednesday to talk and give him a signature.

Tiger Woods recently confirmed that he'll play the Honda Classic, where he's listed at much more reasonable odds than usual. That could suit those most skilled at controlling their ball flight. But I don't think it's imperative.

"Play out of the fairway".

The best of his iron play came on the toughest hole on the course, the 17th. You can't up-and-down it around here and expect to win. He had to hit every conceivable shot Thursday, to shape it both ways, high and low, and he executed almost every one of them.

All of which Woods struggled to do at Riviera. It happened at the 16th hole during the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic when he hit a wild slice that ultimately cost him the tournament.

Brandt Snedeker could offer perspective after playing with Woods in the third round at Torrey Pines and Thursday. A few weeks later, he had the first of four back surgeries.

"I'm so happy I'm not in pain anymore, but I'm fused, so it's a little bit different", he said. "But when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings, is just completely unacceptable really".

Woods has not said his schedule beyond this week.

Woods is expected to play only the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he has eight victories, before the Masters in a bid to preserve his recovering back.

The more telling stat was this: His proximity to the hole (28 feet) was more than an 11-foot improvement over his first two starts this year.

McGirt is grouped with Greg Chalmers and Luke Donald for the first two rounds.

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