Tiger Woods ends 924-day winless streak on PGA Tour, wins Arnold Palmer Invitational

March 26th, 2012 by Staff

Holds off 2010 U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell

ORLANDO – It was easy again Sunday, the way it used to be for Tiger Woods.

And wasn’t it symbolic that everything came together for his comeback victory not only at Bay Hill Club, where he won for the seventh time, but about four miles away from his old home at Isleworth, where  on Thanksgiving night 2009 his world began to come apart?

After the last of a bunch of skillful shots landed safely on the friendly 18th green, Woods was certain that victory was his in an official PGA Tour event for the first time since the BMW Championship in September of 2009.

“Effin yeah,” he exclaimed to his caddie, Joe LaCava.

It was his way of announcing he’s back.

Woods hardly missed a shot Sunday. He absorbed a couple of body blows when the gritty Graeme McDowell dropped a couple of early bombs. But there was a look in his eye when he left the putting green for the first tee, the look he had at those 14 majors.
This was going to be his day. And when it ended with a five-shot win at 13-under 275, you could sense a burden was lifted.

“It was pure joy,” Woods allowed. “I’ve been so close to putting it together. It’s been a yard here and a yard there. I just said, ‘Be patient, it’s coming.’”

“He was a man on a mission today,” LaCava said. “You saw the ball-striking. He was pretty jacked up. He was out to prove himself. He probably wishes the Masters was tomorrow.”

Woods shot a 2-under 70 on a tough day when the field averaged a hefty 74.027. McDowell just couldn’t hang with him. The 2010 U.S. Open champ made a big mistake on the first hole when he missed the green on the wrong side and ended up with a fried egg lie in the right bunker. Trying to hit it out sideways, he sent it across the green to the opposite bunker. He took a double bogey six and Woods’ one-shot overnight lead was three. It never got lower than two the rest of the day, even though McDowell’s 51-footer for an eagle on six made it seem as though he was turning up the heat.

“I think he really just kind of nailed home his comeback,” McDowell said after his round of 74. “It was great to have a front row seat watching maybe the greatest of all time doing what he does best, winning golf tournaments.”

Woods didn’t miss his first green until the 11th hole. He hit 14 of 18 in all and 10 of 14 fairways. Most impressively, his shots were holding their lines and his distance control was impeccable. He’s been hitting the ball longer since he began to work with swing coach Sean Foley and says he’s just starting to get used to the new distances.

“I’m not used to hitting my irons with some of the longer hitters,” he said. “I haven’t done that for over a decade. I’ve gained all that back. And when push came to shove today, the wind was howling and I had to hit a lot of good shots. I did. It was good today.”

And with the Masters coming up in two weeks, it may get even better. Woods has always been a factor at Augusta National, even when things were at their worst. This win sends him in as the clear favorite, although Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson will have their say.

“Even a guy like that needs to win to have confidence and I think this gives him a great deal of confidence going into Augusta and the rest of the year,” LaCava said. “It proves to him all the hard work has paid off and he can still get it done. I don’t think he ever doubted himself. But it’s nice to win so you have that confidence.”

Woods still insists that he had already won before this week – at the Chevron Challenge in December. That was an unofficial event with an 18-player field, however. This was his litmus test and after failing to beat Robert Rock at Abu Dhabi and getting dusted by Mickelson at the ATT Pebble Beach Pro Am, he needed to close this one out.

“You don’t need to win. You want to win,” he said. “It’s for me personally. That’s why I play.”


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