Sunday 26 January 2020

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Tiger Woods wins first tournament since sex scandal

Tiger Woods of the USA proudly holds the trophy during the final round of the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Photo: Getty Images
Tiger Woods of the USA proudly holds the trophy during the final round of the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Garrod

BRING on The Masters - so says Tiger Woods and so says anyone who saw him return to winning ways by five shots last night.

Woods left Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, second and third respectively, trailing in his wake as he took an amazing seventh Arnold Palmer Invitational title at Bay Hill.

It was his first official PGA Tour victory for 30 months. The first therefore since his sex scandal hit the headlines in November 2009.

How sweet it tasted for the former world number one, now back up to sixth in the rankings after falling outside the top 50 last autumn.

But there could be sweeter to come - at Augusta next week, of course.

Woods will be chasing his 15th major, but first since the 2008 US Open, and he said after his closing 70: "I am excited, there's no doubt.

"It's always fun to get there and play and I'm looking forward to the momentum I've built up here."

He added: "I still need some work, and it's going to be good to get a week off and work on a few things.

"I enjoyed the progression we made this week. Each day there was a little bit of fine-tuning here and there, and we were able to make those adjustments, which was good, and especially with the conditions getting more difficult on the weekend. I was able to hit some really good shots the last two days, and that's a very good sign going into Augusta."

Woods had people to thank too.

"It's been a lot of hard work and I'm so thankful for a lot of people helping me out along the way. They all know who they are," he said.

By that he presumably did not mean ex-coach Hank Haney, whose book about his time with Woods is published this week and is something golf's most private player has already heavily criticised.

But he presumably did mean Sean Foley, who has helped groove yet another new swing these last 19 months, and all the physios and medics who have had to work on him.

It was only a fortnight ago that there was concern he might not even be at The Masters after pulling out of the Cadillac Championship.

But, recovered from the mild Achilles tendon strain in his left ankle he suffered in Miami, yesterday was the eighth straight day he had played and it held up.

McDowell, one behind at the start, handed the initiative away by starting with a double bogey, but kept things interesting with putts of 45, 51 and 23 feet at the third, sixth - it was for eagle there - and 11th.

Woods, though, came back from a three-putt bogey on the second with four birdies in the next six holes and playing the back nine in 37 was always likely to be good enough on a difficult day when there were only two rounds better than his.

It was the 72nd PGA Tour win of his career and he needs only one more to match the haul by Jack Nicklaus.

That would leave just Sam Snead - 82 between 1936 and 1965 - ahead of him, but it is Nicklaus's 18 majors that now becomes the focus again.

Few majors have ever had the build of this Masters.

Rory McIlroy went to world number one by winning the Honda Classic. Luke Donald took it back by winning the Transitions Championship a week ago.

In between Justin Rose captured the second world championship of the season.

Four European victories in a row in America had never been achieved. But for Woods it would have happened.

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