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\Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, watches his shot on the first hole during a practice round of the Cadillac Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Doral, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Golf: Doral gets 1st true test at Cadillac Championship
First Published Mar 06 2014 09:49 am • Last Updated Mar 08 2014 08:29 pm

Doral, Fla. • Ernie Els has been playing at Doral for two decades, so the approaching roar of jet engines over the Blue Monster late in the afternoon is not unusual. What got his attention was the sound of chopping rotors.

The Donald had returned.

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The helicopter belonging to Donald Trump, the proud owner of what is now Trump National Doral, was making another landing. A two-club wind became a four-club wind. It was quite a scene, and the Big Easy smiled big as he said, "I think that thing has come and gone seven times today."

Els then asked the more pertinent question of the day.

"What are the boys saying about this place?" he said Wednesday as he finished up a twilight practice round on a course that is entirely different under the handiwork of Gil Hanse.

The answer: Check back on Thursday.

Because that’s when it counts.

The Cadillac Championship gets underway with great uncertainty — about the golf course, about Tiger Woods, about who is No. 1.

Even the players who have been here almost as long as 20-year-old Jordan Spieth has been on earth are starting from scratch this week. The routing of the 18 holes goes in the same direction. Everything else about the place is new.

Everything.


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Consider a release issued by the PGA Tour detailing the changes on the Blue Monster:

—Rebuilt and reshaped all the greens.

—Rebuilt and repositioned all the bunkers.

—Rebuilt all the tees.

—Rebuilt all the fairways.

There was nothing about the helipad, positioned between the ninth and 10th holes.

Woods, who withdrew from the final round of the Honda Classic on Sunday with a lower back injury that produced spasms, arrived in time to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the Tiger Woods Villa (where Rory McIlroy is staying) and hold a 20-minute news conference to say that treatment has improved his back and that he was looking long term at ways to keep it from happening again.

Then, he took wedges and a putter and walked 18 holes to see the place for the first time.

It was the second time in 10 tournaments that Woods experience back pain during a round. It was the fourth time in five years that he withdrew in the middle of a round because of injury. For a guy with four surgeries on his left knee, the focus has shifted to his lower back.

"I think we have to take a more global look at it, absolutely, because it comes and goes," Woods said. "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. You have to make certain adjustments. We’ve done that throughout my entire career, and this is no different."

He turned 38 last year, though health concerns are nothing new. He had the first of his four knee surgeries while at Stanford. He said he first experienced back pain in college.

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