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This is only the third time Woods has played the Honda Classic as a pro. He rallied with a 62 in the final round in 2012 to finish behind McIlroy, and then struggled off the tee - particularly on the sixth hole - a year ago when he tied for 37th.

McIlroy has his own set of memories from PGA National, not all of them good. Even though he won in 2012 to become No. 1 in the world for the first time, he followed that by playing 26 holes last year before walking off the course with his game in disrepair and his business affairs not much better.

McIlroy said it was a mistake to quit, something he won’t ever do again. But the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland is in a better frame of mind this year. He is comfortable with his equipment. He’s engaged. He has settled into his own management (though he still is going through a legal battle with his old firm). And he is playing like the guy everyone expected to be the biggest threat to Woods.

“I’m in a better place,” McIlroy said. “And I feel like when my game is in a good place, everything else can sort of fall in line with that. It makes me feel more comfortable about everything.”