WGC-Cadillac Championship: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy shake off the pain and come out joking

 

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Fun and games were the order of the day ahead of the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami, which starts on Thursday, Rory McIlroy cracking the jokes at England's expense and Tiger Woods fit as a butcher's dog just three days after quitting on the course with a poorly back. Or is he?

Woods explained that trying to account for his actions to his daughter Sam as he walked off the 13th green at the Honda Classic on Sunday was one of the bigger challenges he has faced. Another is staying healthy as he approaches 40 years of age.

Woods, who turned 38 in December, admitted to concerns about his fitness for the Masters next month and said that managing his health through rest and conditioning work is more important to him at this stage of his career than playing regular tour events.

"I was telling Sam when I was walking off that, 'Hey, Daddy can handle pain', but I just couldn't move out there. I got to a point where I couldn't twist. So trying to explain to your six-year-old daughter why you quit is certainly a very interesting concept and topic," Woods said.

Sam was seeking the same answers as those in the galleries, some of whom wondered if Woods had walked because of the discomfort in his back or the pain on the scorecard. Woods was five-over for his round after shooting a 65 the day before. "Since he was no longer contending for the win, what was the point of carrying on when he was obviously playing so badly?" was the cynical view.

Back problems are notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat. In the boxing community it has served the politics of matchmaking better than any other excuse for not going through with an engagement: "withdrawn through a back injury, terribly sorry".

Woods has earned the right to the benefit of any doubt, and though he has not hit a full shot since his withdrawal, claims the treatment he has had since has returned him to full health. "I've learned it as I've aged. I don't quite heal as fast as I used to. I just don't bounce back like I used to.

"There's times that, watching my kids run around, I wish I could do that again. They just bounce right up, bruises are gone in a day. It's just not that way any more.

"You've just got to look at it sometimes and take a step back. We've got to make sure that we do preventative things to make sure that it doesn't happen and adjust certain things, whether it's swing, lifting, whatever it may be. I just couldn't twist [at Honda]. I literally couldn't twist any more. I said, 'this is absurd. I'm going to be hitting it a hundred yards either way right now. I don't know which one is coming.' It's to a point where I'm going to be doing probably more harm than good.

"It's been a long couple days of just treatment non-stop, trying to get everything calmed down, first of all, get all the inflammation out and from there, getting the firing sequence right again. Once we did that it feels good."

McIlroy was decidedly chipper, too, given the trauma of his Honda Classic play-off defeat. His rib tickler at England's expense came in response to questions about his own failure to manage the stresses of the final afternoon during which he let slip a two-shot overnight lead. McIlroy has worked briefly with golf's guru of first resort, Dr Bob Rotella, but doesn't feel the need for assistance in the way England do after the Football Association hired psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters to work with the players.

"If you feel the need for it then go ahead, use it and take what you need from it," he said. "I think once you're comfortable, you can sort of do your own thing until you might need it again.

"I know [Peters] worked with Liverpool a little bit. Steve Gerrard has worked with him individually for a few years. I think they [England] need more than a psychologist."

It was, of course, said in jest, pointing to a clear state of mind. You can't win them all, McIlroy said. The point is to be in contention, which he expects to be at the WGC-Cadillac this weekend.

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