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Originally published Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 12:29 PM

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Woods in better shape than a year ago

With so much talk about quitting in the middle of a round, Tiger Woods brings his own perspective.

AP Golf Writer

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DORAL, Fla. —

With so much talk about quitting in the middle of a round, Tiger Woods brings his own perspective.

If he had not walked off the course in the middle of the final round at Doral last year, he might not have gone on to win three times on the PGA Tour.

In one of the most surprising - certainly the quickest - turnarounds in his career, Woods hit his tee shot on the 12th hole last year on the Blue Monster, shook hands with Webb Simpson, walked to a cart and was driven to the parking lot. He was 3-over for the round and 10 shots out of the lead. He said later in a statement that his left Achilles tendon was sore, the same one that caused him to miss almost the entire summer of 2011, including a pair of majors.

Two weeks later, he won at Bay Hill for his first PGA Tour win in more than two years.

Woods said he was worried that if he didn't stop, the Achilles would get so bad he would have to take more time off, similar to his poor decision in 2011 to compete in The Players Championship. He withdrew after nine holes at The Players. If he had skipped that event, he might not have missed those two majors.

"It was a point that if I kept going, then yeah, I could have pushed it to that point," Woods said. "So I learned my lesson from The Players and I didn't do it. And consequently I was able to go on and win the next tournament I played in, which was Bay Hill."

Rory McIlroy left the Honda Classic for other reasons.

He was frustrated by the way he was playing. He was fed up with not getting the results he wanted, and with his swing not being in the position it needed to be. He felt the burden of living up to the expectations of being the No. 1 player. He wanted out.

Only after he had driven off from PGA National, and then compounded the error by claiming he had a sore wisdom tooth, did McIlroy realize his mistake.

He has spent the last five days doing damage control, giving an interview to Sports Illustrated ahead of his Wednesday news conference to soften the criticism. He apologized. He explained the source of his frustration. He promised to never do it again.

European Tour official Michael Gibbons introduced him by suggesting he immediately discuss his disappointment ... of Manchester United losing on Wednesday.

"I gave myself a red card last week," McIlroy said, referring to Nani getting a red card and Man U having only 10 players the rest of the way in a loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The difference is, McIlroy left on his own.

"I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't the right thing to do," McIlroy said. "No matter how bad I was playing, I should have stayed out there. I should have tried to shoot the best score possible even though it probably wasn't going to be good enough to make the cut. At that point in time, I was just all over the place. ... It was a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes and I'm learning from them. I guess some people have the pleasure of making mistakes in private. Most of my mistakes are in the public eye.

"It's over now and it won't happen again."

He did well to repair the damage to his reputation, which to that point had been nearly flawless. The next step is his golf, which might be a bit tougher to fix.

And it comes on a big stage.

This World Golf Championship has a 65-man field composed of players who are either in the top 50 in the world ranking or were leaders on the money list from tours around the world. It's so strong that all but a dozen players are already in the Masters.

There's no cut, assuring McIlroy his first 72-hole event this year. But he'll be playing with Woods and Luke Donald, Nos. 1-2-3 in the world. Already this year, McIlroy has missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship and quit after 26 holes of the Honda Classic.

Woods had some sound advice, unrelated to health or frustration with form. It was about the grind of golf.

"We play week after week," Woods said after nine holes of practice on the Blue Monster. "Once one week ends, you have to move on the next one. And we're on a different venue and different golf course. 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."

His year hasn't been the best, except for the week at Torrey Pines when Woods won his 75th career PGA Tour event. He also missed the cut in Abu Dhabi. He also lost in the first round of Match Play. And while he finished the Honda Classic, he was in the middle of the pack and failed to break par in any round.

But he has his health.

A year after he pulled out of Doral on the last day, Woods sounded as though he were as strong as ever.

"I'm actually able to do everything," he said. "I don't have to worry about my Achilles or my knee anymore. I can now actually train instead of rehab. I've made some pretty significant gains in my strength and it feels nice to be able to train. ... That's one reason why I'm hitting it farther. I have my legs underneath me and that's where our power is. It's nice to be able to have that and I'm moving the ball out there to where I know I can again."

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