When Rory McIlroy talked Wednesday about the pressures of being the World No. 1, Tiger Woods understood. Woods first became the No. 1 player in the world on June 15, 1997. He traded the ranking back and forth with Greg Norman, Ernie Els and David Duval for the next couple years. Then, on Aug. 15, 1999, Woods began a run of 264 consecutive weeks at No. 1.
Asked about McIlroy's admission that he was putting a lot of pressure on himself, Woods said that he had to adjust to the pressures of being the world's top player.
Q. If you can go all the way back to when you first ascended to No. 1 Rory talked about the pressure he put on himself to try to back it up and how he found that essentially that resulted in what happened to a degree on Friday. What's the pressure on a newly‑crowned No. 1, what prepares you for that?
TIGER WOODS: Nothing. Nothing prepares you for that. It's just one of those things wherefore me, it happened at 21 years old and I was pretty young, just fresh out of college the year before. And it happened very quickly for me. I won some tournaments, won the Masters, had a pretty good season in'97.
For me, it wasn't necessarily the pressure of being No. 1. It was more the scheduling. I had never played that much golf, playing around the world. We have our seasons in college, but we were only playing 12 events during an entire school year. Out here, we are playing 20‑plus events. That was a big, big change for me to be able to play that many tournaments.
It didn't take me for‑‑ but probably until '99 that I may an adjustment on scheduling and finally got it right and had some pretty good years after that.
Q. When you got to No. 1 at such a young age, how long did it take for to you realize that everything that you were saying and doing was under an intense spotlight and how long did it take you to stop reading [what was written about you]? TIGER WOODS: It wasn't when I was No. 1. It happened the first week I turned pro. That was‑‑ that week in Milwaukee was pretty hectic. The weeks subsequent, following that, they weren't exactly easy, because I was are trying to get my card at the time, too, and dealing with a whole new life.
You know, I wasn't in college at the same time‑‑ well, could have been playing college golf; I'm playing professional golf and trying to get my card and dealing with a lot of things I've never dealt with before.
So that part, when I was No. 1, even after winning the Masters, I think that when I first turned pro in '96 was a little bit more difficult.
Woods also said that he hadn't paid much attention to the hubbub surrounding McIlroy walking off mid-round at the Honda Classic last week, but that he suspected that the media gave it to McIlroy "pretty good."
Q. Following up on Rory, answered every question this morning from the media and took full responsibility and apologized; do you think that the scrutiny was too harsh on him for the reasons that he pulled out last week?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know. I really haven't read much. I've seen a couple things on the ticker, but I've been watching other sporting events. I know he's gotten a little bit, but to the extent that you're saying, I don't know how much. I'm sure that most of you guys have taken it to him pretty good.
Woods had his own mid-round withdrawal at Doral last year when he felt tightness in his left Achilles. On Wednesday, Woods said he feels healthy and he doesn't have to worry about my Achilles or my knee anymore."
Q. When you had to leave last year, was there any fear at the time, here we go again with the injury, were you scared? TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it was a point that if I kept going, then, yeah, I could have pushed it to that point, just like when I came back and tried to play the Players.
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.
Q. Have there been any issues since, or is it something that you have to keep in the back of your mind? TIGER WOODS: No, I'm actually able to do everything. 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, as I said, be able to train and not go out there and do the little bitty knickknack rehab things.
Q. How much difference has that made in your game? TIGER WOODS: That's one reason why I'm hitting it further. 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 ‑‑ that I know I can again, which is nice.
Photo: Tiger Woods during a practice round at Doral on Wednesday (Getty Images).