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The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland won his second major last year, captured the money title on the two biggest tours, swept all the important awards and established himself as No. 1 in the world. He also signed a big deal with Nike said to be worth upward of $20 million a year. And he was eager to prove it.

McIlroy noticed a flaw in his swing when he watched the first Nike commercial he made with Woods. There are questions about how well he is adjusting to the driver and the golf ball, even though his bad play the last two tournaments was attributed to his iron game.

He told Sports Illustrated he needed to be more like Woods.

“He might be the best athlete ever in terms of his ability to grind it out,” McIlroy said. “I could have a bit more of that, if I’m honest.”

Honesty has rarely been a problem for McIlroy.

He was probably too honest when he told three reporters who followed him to his car that he was “not in a good place mentally.” When he blew a four-shot lead in the final round of the 2011 Masters with an 80, he stood in the locker room and took every question about his epic meltdown. He was honest on Twitter when he lashed out at a TV reporter who questioned McIlroy’s caddie, referring to the reporter as a failed player and telling him to “shut up.”

Justin Rose knows about expectations.

He was 17 when he tied for fourth in the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale, turned pro a week later and missed the cut in his first 21 cuts as a pro. He later realized that fans didn’t care as much about his results as he thought they did. He worked his way out of the slump eventually and now is No. 5 in the world.

“I guess you can play your way out of trouble a lot quicker when you’re No. 1 in the world,” Rose said. “Facing a little bit of pressure and expectation that’s on Rory right now, he has the skill set and the talent to possibly turn it around a lot quicker.”

The sooner the better.

McIlroy has played only 80 holes in three tournaments this year _ a missed cut, a first-round loss in the Match Play Championship, and a withdrawal. He has gone through rough patches before. It was only 10 months ago that he missed four cuts in five tournaments. His shoulders sagged. He threw a few clubs.

But he never walked off the course without finishing, and that makes you wonder if his psyche is really that fragile.

He has two more tournaments on his schedule before the Masters, and the good news about Doral is that it’s a World Golf Championship with no cut. McIlroy is guaranteed four rounds for the first time this year. The first step is his press conference Wednesday.

For McIlroy, honesty will go a long way toward putting this behind him.

Winning will go even further.