Woods back to win­ning ways with vic­tory in Florida

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports News - PHILIP REID

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281 THE MAS­TER gave an im­i­ta­tion of his old self, as Tiger Woods – who has re­mod­elled his swing un­der coach Sean Fo­ley and re­dis­cov­ered the know-how to close out a tour­na­ment – shot a final round 70 for 275, 13-un­der-par, to out­gun North­ern Ire­land’s Graeme Mc­dow­ell in the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional at Bay Hill. It gave Woods a sev­enth win in the tour­na­ment and the 72nd PGA Tour win of his ca­reer.

Woods, whose last win on the US Tour came at the BMW Cham­pi­onship in 2009, a sea­son when he claimed six ti­tles, fin­ished five shots clear of Mc­dow­ell with Ian Poul­ter alone in third. South Africa’s Ernie Els, who re­quired a topthree fin­ish to earn an in­vite in to next week’s Mas­ters tour­na­ment, closed with a 75 that dropped him into a seven-way tie for fourth.

“It feels re­ally good, a lot of hard work . . . it has been tough,” said Woods. “I’m ex­cited [about the Mas­ters] and I am look­ing for­ward to the mo­men­tum I have built here.” Mc­dow­ell, the 2010 US Open cham­pion, had pre­vi­ously fended off Woods when paired with the 14-times Ma­jor cham­pion. That was back in 2010 when Mc­dow­ell went head-to­head with Woods in the final round of the Chevron World Chal­lenge and out­du­elled the tour­na­ment host. But there was no re­peat of those hero­ics in Florida as the Ul­ster­man suf­fered a set­back from the get-go with that open­ing six where he went from green­side bunker to green­side bunker and then found rough to give Woods a help­ing hand.

Although Woods suf­fered

a three-putt bo­gey on the sec­ond and Mc­dow­ell jump-started his round with a 35 footer for ea­gle on the sixth, it was Woods who took firm con­trol. Woods re­cov­ered from the bo­gey on the sec­ond to roll in back-to-back birdies on the third and fourth and then added fur­ther birdies at the sixth and eighth to turn in 33 and, with a big lead, played con­ser­va­tively on the way home to closer the deal.

Mc­dow­ell – who had started out a shot be­hind 54-hole leader Woods – got an early in­di­ca­tion that it wouldn’t be his day on the very first hole where, from the left side of the fair­way with 165 yards to the green, he found a green­side bunker. From there, he flew the green into a rear bunker and then splashed out into rough to run up a six that put him on the back foot and handed Woods the ini­tia­tive.

Known as a great closer in his prime, hav­ing won 47 of 51 tour­na­ments where he car­ried a 54-hole lead into the final round, Woods had suf­fered some re­cent set­backs in that depart­ment: he lost out to Mc­dow­ell in the 2010 Chevron and, more re­cently, in this sea­son’s Abu Dhabi cham­pi­onship where Eng­land’s Robert Rock out­gunned him.

Mc­dow­ell had been the only re­al­is­tic chal­lenger to Woods as the final round pro­gressed, but the Ir­ish­man’s in­con­sis­tency, es­pe­cially with the put­ter, was in marked con­trast to that of Woods – two weeks be­fore the Mas­ter at Au­gusta – who re­peat­edly found fair­ways and greens in reg­u­la­tion and was ex­tremely solid with his put­ter.

Mc­dow­ell fin­ished with a 74 for 280, eight-un­der par, to take sec­ond place.

Tiger Woods re­acts af­ter win­ning the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional PGA golf tour­na­ment in Or­lando, Florida, last night

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