Tiger Woods Captures Win At Bay Hill
Tiger Woods ended up his two and half year drought on Sunday, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational for a record seventh time. Tiger finally put it together for all four rounds of a tournament, and just two weeks after an injury scare will be carrying some momentum to Augusta and the Masters in a few weeks.
To put it mildly, Tiger’s game was all out of whack when he bottomed out at the 2011 PGA Championship last August. He was spraying his shots all over the course, misjudging chips, missing putts, and looked like he had lost most of confidence. However, since that debacle he has been on the upswing, showing gradual improvement as the time he has spent honing his swing with Sean Foley seems to finally be paying off. He came close to getting back to the winners circle in a few events and won the Chevron World Challenge in December, but the questions pertaining to his winless streak in official PGA Tour events were going to persist until he finally nailed down a win. Playing on a Bay Hill course he has owned over the years provided Tiger with as good as place as any to seal the deal.
Sunday was a good test for Woods, as he entered the final round with a mere one shot lead over Graeme McDowell, a player who’s had some success against Tiger in recent times. It was just a little over a year ago that McDowell came back from four shots down to beat Woods at the 2010 Chevron event, damaging the once invincible aura of Tiger. Additionally, the course was playing extremely tough the last two days (even described by McDowell as “US Open-esque”), with players continuously putting up black scores on the leaderboard.
Tiger got a bit of a break right off the bat when McDowell started his round with a double bogey. He managed to keep close to Tiger by sinking a few improbable putts, making a 45-foot birdie on No. 3 and a 50-foot eagle putt on No. 6. Tiger was able to answer even run made by Graeme though, never letting him get closer than two shots after the first hole. Tiger hit a few loose shots late in the round but overall he played outstanding; hitting fairways, controlling his iron shots, and most importantly making practically every big putt. A Woods trademark during his years of domination was his ability to make the crucial par save when he had too, and Sunday at Bay Hill he put on a clinic on the back nine. On a day when most of the field fell back, Tiger ended up shooting a 2-under70 for the five-shot win. The crowd in attendance was appreciative of his efforts and glad to see him get over the hump, bursting out in loud “Tiger” chants on the 18th green.
Spinning this forward the year’s first major tournament gets under way in a few short weeks, beginning April 5th at August National. Whether or not Tiger is completely back will play out over the rest of the season, but even at his worst he always seems to play well at the Masters. Not surprisingly, the oddsmakers at this point believe Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, and Woods will be the golfers to beat. While Rory and host of talented players will be seeking their green jacket, Lefty and Tiger will be looking for their fourth and fifth Masters wins, respectively.
It has been almost four years since Tiger last won a Major Championship, and there have been six winners since he last won the Masters. Tiger appears to be peaking at just the right time, and given the state of his game and his comfort level at Augusta, he seems primed to end his next drought.
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