Woods back to winning ways with victory in Florida
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