Woods made nine birdies for a 6-under 66 that put him in a five-way share of the lead in the Cadillac Championship in Doral, Fla.

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DORAL, Fla. — Tiger Woods was on his game, and so were most of the world’s best golfers Thursday in the Cadillac Championship.

Except for the world’s No. 1 player.

Woods made nine birdies on the Blue Monster at Doral for a 6-under 66 that put him in a five-way share of the lead with Masters champion Bubba Watson, former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Freddie Jacobson.

This World Golf Championship lived up to its name with Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan among those one shot behind.

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But it was another rough day for Rory McIlroy.

He hit only three fairways and made six bogeys that kept him at par or worse on a perfect day for scoring. Despite making a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 first hole, and lacing a 5-iron over the water for another eagle attempt on the par-5 eighth that narrowly missed, the best he could manage was a 73.

McIlroy has yet to break par this year.

“It was a bit of a struggle, to be honest,” McIlroy said to Sky Sports. “Hit some good shots. Hit some not-so-good shots. As I’ve been saying all week, this is a work in progress and I’m working at it and I’m staying patient.”

He declined to speak to reporters, grabbing a quick lunch and smiling at screaming fans who wanted his autograph as he headed to the practice range.

McIlroy played alongside Woods and Luke Donald — Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world. And while this essentially is a home game for Woods, having won three times at Doral, the occasional shouts of “You’re the real No. 1, Tiger!” rang true.

Coming off a pedestrian performance a week ago at the Honda Classic, Woods looked sharp, except for a few chipping lapses. “It was certainly a day that could have been a little lower,” said Woods.

Just about everyone could say that in these conditions — warm sunshine with a gentle breeze.

Woods atop the leaderboard created enough buzz to drown out the jetliners over Doral as they approach Miami International Airport. But there was just as much curiosity about the 23-year-old McIlroy and the state of his game, not to mention what’s going on inside his head.

Woods said McIlroy looked “just a little bit defensive” with his swing.

“That happens, and we have all gone through stretches like this,” Woods said. “You’re going to have ups and downs, and just got to battle through it.”


• Argentina’s Andres Romero made two late bogeys and fell into a tie for the Puerto Rico Open first-round lead with Australian Cameron Percy at 7-under 65.

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