30 months later, Tiger Woods finally wins again on PGA Tour

  • Article by: DOUG FERGUSON , Associated Press
  • Updated: March 26, 2012 - 8:02 AM
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Tiger Woods hit from the second tee during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament.

Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Tiger Woods hit so many great shots that he couldn't single one out as the best. Winning was as sweet as ever, even after a PGA Tour drought that stretched over 923 days and 27 tournaments.

The best part about posing with the trophy at Bay Hill?

The conversation was back on golf, his favorite subject.

Just two weeks ago, Woods gingerly climbed into a golf cart and was taken off the golf course at Doral with soreness and swelling in his left Achilles tendon, the same injury that caused him to miss three months and two majors last year.

On Sunday, no one questioned his health. Woods marched to a five-shot victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational that restored his confidence and gave him momentum going into the Masters two weeks away.

"This was coming," Woods said. "I've been close a number of times, basically since Australia. Just had to stay the course."

Only a month ago, there were concerns that Woods could no longer make the important putts.

He had missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the last hole to lose in the second round at the Match Play Championship. He missed several putts just as close when he crashed out in the final round at Pebble Beach. But there he was at Bay Hill, knocking in two big par putts on the back nine to keep his distance from Graeme McDowell.

"I just never got close to him," McDowell said.

And then there's the book by his ex-swing coach, Hank Haney. "The Big Miss," which goes on sale Tuesday, has been such a sore spot with Woods that he lost his cool with a reporter earlier this month. The book reveals a driven player who is self-centered and rarely satisfied, no big surprise except that it was a side of Woods he tried to keep private for all these years.

Woods added a chapter to his own book Sunday.

He won for the 72nd time on the PGA Tour — one short of Jack Nicklaus in second place on the career list — and 84th time worldwide. It was the 16th time he won by at least five shots, and his seventh win at Bay Hill tied the PGA Tour for most wins on a single golf course. Woods owns both marks. He also has won seven times at Firestone.

"I think he really just kind of nailed home his comeback," McDowell said. "Great to have a front-row seat watching maybe the greatest of all time doing what he does best — winning golf tournaments."

The only thing missing was the host himself.

Palmer's blood pressure increased during the final round from new medications, and he was taken to the hospital about 15 minutes before the tournament ended as a precaution. Alaistair Johnston, vice chairman at IMG and his longtime business manager, said Palmer would be kept overnight. "Nobody is overly concerned," he said.

Woods goes to No. 6 in the world, returning to the top 10 for the first time since May 22.

"Heading home now and I can't stop smiling. Thanks to Otown fans and everyone watching for all the love. Get well soon, Arnie," Woods tweeted about three hours after his win.

On a Bay Hill course that was crisp, fast and dangerous, Woods ran off four birdies on the front nine to build a four-shot lead, then kept his mistakes to a minimum for a 2-under 70.

He quickly stretched his lead to three shots on the opening hole when McDowell, who closed with a 74, caught a buried lie in the bunker and made double bogey. After that, it was vintage Woods.

From 267 yards away in the fairway on the par-5 sixth, Woods hit a 3-iron that climbed over the water and landed softly to just over 15 feet away to secure a birdie. Two holes later, facing a tight pin over the water, he ripped an 8-iron from 182 yards that barely cleared the bank and caught a slope to within 4 feet for birdie.

The lead was four at the turn, and McDowell never got closer than three the rest of the way. Ian Poulter had a 74 and finished alone in third, and while he never looked behind him to see what Woods was doing, he could hear it.

This is a win that will resonate.

"He's always a force to be reckoned with when he's not playing his best golf," Poulter said. "And obviously, he's playing a lot of good golf right now. The shots he's hit, just looking at the highlights, he's got a lot of his game back. And when he starts rolling putts in, he's dangerous. So he's going to be a force for everybody at Augusta."

Woods finished at 13-under 275.

It was the first time Woods had won on the PGA Tour since Sept. 13, 2009, at the BMW Championship. His last win against a full field had been Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters.

Twelve days later, Woods drove into a fire hydrant outside his home, and it wasn't long before revelations of multiple extramarital affairs that led to divorce and cost him an impeccable marketing image. Woods has won back the support of fans who love to see great golf, though corporate support has been lagging.

Woods downplayed the significance of Sunday, pointing out on more than one occasion that he considers it his second win since the scandal. He counts the Chevron World Challenge last December, when he went birdie-birdie to beat an 18-man field of top-50 players.

But this was significant — a PGA Tour event with a full field, and a strong field at that. And with a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine.

"I've gotten better, and that's the main thing," Woods said. "I've been close for a number of tournaments now. And it was just a matter of staying the course and staying patient, keeping working on fine-tuning what we're doing. And here we are."

So where does he go?

Next up is the Masters, which looms larger than ever. Woods figures to be a big favorite, along with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, all of whom have won in the first three months of the season.

"I've won here on a few occasions going into Augusta, which has always been a good feeling," Woods said. "I still have got some work to do, but I'm excited about the things that we have accomplished. It's been very good."

It felt better than that on the 18th hole, when the familiar red shirt was accompanied by a smile that had not been seen in some time at the end of a tournament.

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Tennessee 13 4th Qtr 0:17
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
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San Francisco
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Miami
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Houston
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Oakland
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Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 57 3rd Qtr
Sacramento 54
Oklahoma City 40 2nd Qtr
Golden State 32
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 3 1st Prd 3:13
Los Angeles 0
Edmonton 1 2nd Prd
San Jose 0
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 79 FINAL
UAB 70
Ohio 69 1st OT 1:52
Evansville 77
CS-Dominguez 30 2nd Half 12:53
Cal State Fullerton 38
Walla Walla 18 2nd Half
Idaho 49
DePaul 29 2nd Half 19:38
Oregon State 48
Nevada 21 2nd Half 17:59
Pacific 39
Portland State 22 2nd Half 15:40
San Francisco 52
CS-Bakersfield 18 2nd Half
Utah State 20
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
Santa Clara 76 1st OT 0:02
Oregon 76

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