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McIlroy paired with Woods, Donald at Doral

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 6:40 p.m.

DORAL, Fla. — As if quitting in the middle of a golf tournament didn't bring Rory McIlroy enough attention, it might not let up on the golf course.

McIlroy has been going through damage control the last five days after his abrupt departure when he was 7-over par through eight holes and decided to call it quits at the Honda Classic. After an apology to Sports Illustrated, he faced the media on Wednesday and took all the blame.

“I actually think in the long run, Friday will be a blessing in disguise,” he said, referring to the day he withdrew last week. “It was like it just sort of released a valve, and all that pressure that I've been putting on myself just went away. And I was like, ‘Just go out and have fun. It's not life or death out there. It's only a game.'

“I had sort of forgotten that this year.”

The world's No. 1 player won't be able to escape the spotlight when the Cadillac Championship gets under way Thursday at Doral.

This World Golf Championship tends to group the top players in the world ranking, meaning McIlroy gets to spend the opening two rounds with Tiger Woods and Luke Donald. And while McIlroy's behavior was questioned last week, it's his game that has been the most curious.

He played with Woods when both made their 2013 debut in Abu Dhabi, and the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland had rounds of 75-75 to miss the cut. Woods also missed the cut that week because of a two-shot penalty, though he flew halfway around the world the following week and won at Torrey Pines for his 75th career win.

McIlroy had a sloppy performance on Dove Mountain and lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship, and then made it through only 26 holes at PGA National. He lost track of the hours he put in at The Bear's Club over the weekend, hopeful that he can sort out the problems in his swing.

His expectations for the week?

“Just work on my swing,” he said as he walked out the door after his press conference. “Try to get my swing back.”

Woods can appreciate the scrutiny McIlroy faces. He also had some sound advice: Keep going.

“We play week after week,” Woods said. “Once one week ends, you have to move on the next one. For me over the years, I've just put it aside and moved on, whether it was good or bad, whether I won the tournament or missed the cut, whatever it may be. You move on and get ready for the next event.”

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