McIlroy not hung up on pre-Masters victory

McIlroy not hung up on pre-Masters victory

"I feel like (trying to win) is putting yourself under an very bad lot of pressure", McIlroy said at the Honda Classic on Wednesday.

If you do sit down and watch the broadcast of the Honda, you will hear plenty about "The Bear Trap". Although he lives in nearby Jupiter, Woods said he hasn't played PGA National since his last tournament round, and didn't play practice rounds Monday or Tuesday.

Winless since September 2016, McIlroy missed the cut at the Pebble Beach Pro Am and tied for 20th at Riviera last week. I know most of the guys have been playing tournament golf a lot more than I have. I have looked at the forecast and the wind should top out around 15-16 miles per hour this weekend. I'm looking at (weather) forecasts. "I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. I've missed it and it's becoming familiar again".

Now attempting to come back from the latest surgery - a spinal fusion 10 months ago - Woods considered the four-year anniversary only when reminded of it.

He's tempered his expectations, especially considering the lengthy absence.

In his first start of 2018, at Torrey Pines, Woods made the cut on the number and finished tied for 23rd despite hitting only 17-of-56 fairways and 42-of-72 greens. It doesn't make any difference how long it takes you to hit a golf ball. And last week, his putter let him down - he took 32 putts, including three three-putts, in his second round. "Before that, he used to hit some spectacular shots, and I think you would have seen more of that if there was more good players around him to keep pushing him". Woods will play near his home in Florida at this event for the first time since 2014, and he'll go against a great field that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood. "It's not something that I'm used to because I've never felt like this before, but this is the new norm".

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Thus, with each swing, each hole, each round, Woods is building toward the Masters.

Rickie Fowler returns to defend his title against a field that features Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Masters champion Sergio Garcia - who will be making his first US start of 2018. But he said he's not feeling rushed in his return to the game and journey to Magnolia Lane.

"You don't have to win a tournament [before the Masters]", said McIlroy.

"I wouldn't necessarily say I'm in catch-up mode". I know most of the guys have been playing tournament golf a lot more than I have.

"I'm looking forward to April, I'm trying to get my game solid for April and I've got some work to do", he said. In the past seven years, he's finished outside the top 15 just twice, with his best finish fifth in 2016.

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