Woods held of Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell to claim his first tour victory since the BMW Championship in September 2009.
It was his first tour win anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters at Kingston Heath.
Shortly afterward that Melbourne win revelations about Woods’ private life and then a series of injuries, knee surgeries, swing changes and other issues knocked him from his world No.1 spot and led many pundits to believe his till then spectacular career was all washed up.
Today, just two weeks out from the 2012 Masters, the 14-time major winner looked like he was finally back in business.
“It does feel good. It feels really good,” said Woods, with his traditional final round red shirt reminding everyone of all the successes that had gone before.
“It has been a lot of hard work and I am so thankful of a lot of people helping me out along the way – they all know who they are. It has been tough.”
His attitude made it plain he really believed he was back and, as some suggested, at the beginning of Tiger Woods Mk11 and whole “new” second phase of his career.
If that’s true he is starting his second career way ahead of the pack.
His 13-under finish in Orlando today was his 72nd PGA Tour win, one short of the mark set by Jack Nicklaus Tour and 10 shy of all-time leader Sam Snead’s mark of 82 wins.
It was also his 7th Arnold Palmer Invitational win but with the Masters starting on April 5 the figure he is really looking at is the 14 majors, four short of Nicklaus.
“I am excited, no doubt, he said of the upcoming trip to Augusta National. “It is always fun to get there and always fun to play it and I’m looking forward to the momentum I have built here and the things I have worked on with my game. They’re all coming together at the right time.”
McDowell (74) stated the day just a stroke behind Woods (70) but faded on the back and never really put the American under serious pressure.
England’s Ian Poulter (74) was third, his best finish of the year, while Ernie Els, needing at least an outright third placing to ensure a Masters start, was a big chance of doing just that midway through his round. But the big South African ended with a 75 and will now either have to win the Shell Houston Open next week or be granted a special invitation by Masters’ organisers.
The best of the Australians was Rod Pampling (72) who finished 2-over tied for 36th, while Robert Allenby closed with a 1-over 73 to finish the tournament 4-over at T48 along with Marc Leishman (not initially listed as an Australian starter) who showed great promise in earlier rounds but finished with a 79.
None of those three, or Greg Chalmers who missed the cut, appear likely Masters starters at this stage. Like Els, they would need to win in Houston this week and would be even less likely to be rewarded with a special invitation.
2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational Final Results2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational Final Results