Tiger Woodswas all business Monday at Bay Hill as he put away Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler,Keegan Bradleyand Co. with a final-round 70 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by two shots at 13 under.
Woods has now won eight of the 17 PGA Tour events he’s entered in his career at Bay Hill. I don’t think it’s possible to look at that stat in any way and not be amazed.
Woods has also overtaken Rory McIlroy for the No. 1 world ranking — the first time Woods has held the position since Oct. 30, 2010.
“It’s a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments,” Woods said.
Even more amazing: Tuesday will be Woods’ 6,054th day as a professional golfer, and it will also be his 4,362nd as the No. 1 golfer in the world. Or 72 percent of his professional career.
The story at Bay Hill was Woods’ putting. He wasn’t dropping in the deep putts on Monday like he did the rest of the tournament but consider this stat from Justin Ray:
Not convinced his putter is winning him tournaments? How about this from Bob Harig in the middle of Monday’s round:
Still not convinced. I’ll let Hank Haney drive it home for you:
The scary part is that Woods isn’t even hitting it that splendidly right now. If (or when) he gets that down, things could get 2000-ish again (if they aren’t already).
Woods tried to bury a stacked leaderboard on Monday with his usual final-round conservative play — just like he did in the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year and at Doral two weekends ago.
But Fowler kept coming at him with long birdies, so Woods kept answering. He birdied three of his first six holes in the final round — he played the first two holes
Sunday before the tournament was suspended because of weather — and poured in a lengthy birdie putt on No. 12 to answer another Fowler birdie.
Fowler finally limped away after smacking two shots into the water on the par-5 16th and Woods went birdie-par-bogey on the final three holes for the win.
Woods played the par-5s beautifully, too. He was 14 under on the four par-5 holes in his four rounds and 1-over elsewhere.
“I play well here — that’s a simple as it gets,” Woods said. “If I get healthy I know I can play this game at a high level. I know I can be contending in every event. Once I got there, my game turned.
“I think it’s been years since I’ve hit the ball this consistently day-in and day-out.”
One thing that always strikes me about Woods is that he has such a feel for the rhythm of a professional tournament. He’ll spend the first 36 or 54 holes trying to get a firm grip on the rest of the field and then he’ll use the last round or two to squeeze the life out of everybody.
He’ll play you conservatively, he’ll go low, he’ll do anything he needs to do to keep
you away from the trophy he sees as his own.
That was exactly how this tournament played out, too.
Rose was leading the field (including Woods) by four shots after hole No. 5 during his third round on Saturday. Over the next three hours he made five bogeys, Woods made four birdies and an eagle and took a two-stroke lead to the final round.
And we all know what Tiger Woods does with two-stroke leads in the final round of tournaments.
Woods was king again at the King’s tournament in Orlando, and he’s still got room to get better. He knows he can get better, too.
It was Woods’ record-setting eighth win at Arnold Palmer’s tournament.
“I don’t really see anybody touching it for a long time. I had the opportunity to win a tournament five times, and I knew how difficult that was,” Palmer said.
Even Lindsey Vonn chimed in:
The next time we see Woods will be in three weekends at Augusta National where he’ll stalk the grounds for major No. 15. This is the fourth time Woods has won three tournaments in the same season before the Masters.
“I’ve gotten so much better since those events,” Woods said. “I’ve turned some of the weakness I had last year into strengths. I’m really excited about the rest of this year.”
All I know is that I won’t be betting against him.