Tiger Woods returns to competition Thursday in The Honda Classic at PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Last year, he closed with a 62 to tie for second place, two strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy.
Both were first-round losers last week in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, but played a friendly 36-hole match Sunday at Tiger's home course, the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.
"We thought we would play our own match-play final, except it was over 36 holes," said McIlroy. "We played quick. It was speed golf. It was really enjoyable."
According to McIlroy, Woods won the first 18 holes and he won the second 18.
Like Woods, the 23-year-old McIlroy is now playing with Nike equipment.
"Understandably, he's going through the process," Woods said. "We talked about it a little bit. The good news about today's equipment, we have so many different ways of testing it and tracking it and getting numbers, which back in the days when I came up and obviously well before then, you didn't have these numbers in which you can get your launch conditions, your spin rate, basically any kind of data you want."
The two have become good friends, and the 37-year-old Woods has shared advice about dealing with fame and success at such a young age.
"I think Rory is doing a fantastic job," he said. "As far as my career, it happened very quickly. I turned pro in August ; I think by Augusta , somewhere in there, I became No. 1. Just came out of college and the next thing you know, I'm the No. 1 player in the world. It was a little bit faster than what Rory has had. He's had time to adapt and grow into it."
Speaking of equipment, Woods still believes players should not be allowed to anchor putters on the PGA TOUR. Last Sunday, PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem disagreed with a proposed ban announced by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Royal & Ancient (R&A) in November to ban anchored putters beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
"My position hasn't changed," said Woods. "I still think that [the putter] should be swung; it shouldn't be anchored. But obviously, nothing is set in stone, nothing's firm."
The USGA and R&A initiated a three-month comment period, which concludes Thursday. A final decision is expected in the next few months.
"We'll see what happens," Woods said. "Hopefully we don't have a bifurcate (different rules for professionals and amateurs) or adapt a local rule like we do sometimes out there on tour."
Woods said he will head to Augusta before the Masters in April for at least one practice round.
"Don't know how many holes I'll play," he said. "Sometimes it's 18, sometimes it's 36, but I'd like to get up there and take a look at it. They made a couple little changes here and there. Would like to chart those and get all that situated so that I don't have to do any charting during the tournament week."
As for the state of his game, Woods will be making his third PGA TOUR start of 2013 and his fourth overall. He won his PGA TOUR debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, but lost, 2 and 1, to Charles Howell III last week in the Match Play Championship.
"Generally, if you're missing a cut, you're probably not playing that well," Tiger said. "But I actually played well, and only played one day. I missed a few putts out there but other than that, I really played well and unfortunately ran into a guy who also played well, better than I did. That's just the nature of the business in that format."
Woods begins first-round play Thursday at 7:25 a.m. ET on the 10th tee with Dustin Johnson and Martin Kaymer.