Tiger Woods has finally ended his winless drought, even though this win wasn’t marked with a fist pump, a cap slam or anything overly demonstrative. After fishing his ball from the cup on Bay Hill’s 18th green, Woods turned away with a hard step. “Yeah!” he yelled to no one in particular. “Woooooo!!”
Woods halted it Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, in a manner reminiscent of his most dominant days — a five-shot romp that simply let no pursuer up for air by the time he reached the back nine.
“I just felt that anything under par was going to be a very good score,” Woods said.
A 2-under-par 70 was more than enough Sunday, marching steadily forward while his nearest challengers were tripped up by steady breezes and tough pin positions. A one-stroke cushion went to three after the first hole, and the gap never was closer than two the rest of the way.
“I just never really got close enough to the guy,” said Graeme McDowell, whose double bogey at No. 1 widened the gap. “He played great today and deserves his win. Great to have him back winning golf tournaments.”
The only element missing was Palmer himself, detoured to the hospital with blood-pressure complications minutes before he was to head down to the 18th green. The 82-year-old icon was resting comfortably Sunday night, though set for an overnight stay as a precaution.
“I know he puts his heart and soul into this event,” Woods said in a get-well wish during the trophy ceremony.
It was Woods’ seventh Bay Hill victory and 72nd of Woods’ PGA Tour career, one behind Jack Nicklaus for No. 2 on the all-time list. You have to go back 30 months to find No. 71, coming at the 2009 BMW Championship outside Chicago.
Since then, there had been that fateful collision with the fire hydrant, tabloid headlines, a divorce, changes in both swing coach and caddie and nagging injuries that had fans worried about his health as recently as 14 days ago.
Woods is quick to point out his victory at last December’s Chevron World Challenge, beating Zach Johnson on the final hole. But that featured an 18-man field of all-stars, leaving critics to say he hadn’t won a “real” tournament.