Tiger Woods makes it No. 8 to reach World No. 1 as he held off the field at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla., Monday afternoon after heavy storms washed out afternoon play on Sunday. He played all four rounds under par to post 13-under-par 275 to best runner up Englishman Justin Rose by two shots. Four golfers shared third a further three shots back on 280.
Two years ago, Tiger Woods was ranked No. 58 in the world, was injured and going nowhere. Starting at this tournament last spring, Woods has now ran off six wins in 20 events and has reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the world ranking. His 77th victory on TOUR puts him just five behind Sam Snead’s all-time mark of 82 TOUR wins. He matched Snead’s record this week with his eighth victory at a TOUR event. Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times in his career. Along with overtaking the No. 1 position in the world, Woods also leads the FedExCup points race as Brandt Snedeker slips to second.
Tiger Woods is winning again. He’s still spraying the ball off the tee as he was in the bottom three in fairways hit late in the round on Monday. His wedges are still loose in places as evidenced by the distance of putts he was forced to make for birdies and pars. Some things don’t change though. He killed the par fives (14-under) this week and he absolutely made everything on the greens. At one point, he holed 11 of 12 putts from 10’-20’. If he’s putting like that, it doesn’t matter how far off line his tee ball is! He’s comfortable with his game and his life. He’s had time to practice. He’s found the way back to the winner’s circle. It will be interesting to see how his game holds up when someone actually puts some late pressure on him. He had a three-shot lead on 18 tee again this week. That’s the next question I will be curious to see answered. Next stop: Augusta.
Woods now has won three times before the Masters for the fourth time in his career. In 2000, he won every major EXCEPT the Masters. 2003 saw him go winless. 2008 saw him win his final major (so far) as he held off Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines.
With this victory, Woods collects $1,116,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
There have been 13 tournaments on TOUR this season. All 13 winners have been Americans.
In 2013 10 of the 12 stroke-play events this season the 54-hole leader (or co-leader) has gone on to victory. In 2012, this was the exact opposite trend.
He’s now 42-2 when leading alone heading into the final round in his career.
He’s now been No. 1 in the world for the 624th week of his career. That’s 12 years. That’s a nice single-malt scotch.
Did I mention he’s won this EIGHT times, including back-to-back seasons for the third time?
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods THRICE (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29) and Streelman (34). The young folks (30 and younger) have five victories; the 30-somethings have six victories, half of those by Woods; and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins. Ken Duke finished T6 to give the “old folks” hope.
Here’s the top 10 and we learned about them:
Justin Rose: He’s now finished T3, T15 and second in 2013 in his last three years at API. Sean Foley knows what he’s doing. If Rose would have made ANYTHING on Saturday, Monday could have been much more eventful. He didn’t. That’s his next step. The ball-striking is fantastic. I know you get tired of hearing me say this but if he’s in the tournament, he has to be on your lineup.
Mark Wilson: He’d been cut in four of his last six starts after his T11 at the HTOC to open 2013. His finishes in those two events were T61 and T37. He previously had on top 10 here in eight starts. His T3 this week was his best finish in 13 months (third at WGC-Match Play). Random.
Keegan Bradley: In his three stops on the “Florida Swing” Bradley finished T4 at The Honda Classic, seventh at WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and T3 this week at API. Tight courses? Check. Birdie courses? Check. Ball-striking courses? Check. What can’t he do? He opened with 74 but rallied to play the final three rounds in 10-under. He’s legit.
Rickie Fowler: The telecast flashed a stat that Fowler had made a double bogey or worse in 14 consecutive tournaments right before he dropped two in the drink on No. 16. Well, it was three in the drink if you count the one he threw in there after holing out for 8. Last year, Fowler began the final round with Woods at the Memorial and shot 84. He fired 73 this year to fall into a tie for T3. Fowler only had made six bogeys all week before playing the 70th hole. His T3 is his third finish of T6 or better in seven starts so he’s getting close to getting back into the winner’s circle.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano: I’ll refer to him as GFC from now on so keep up! In his first time in the API, GFC played all four rounds at par or better, including three under par. He made nine bogeys but played the par-fives for the week in nine under. He’s one of three players this week to finish in the top 13 with no previous experience on this track. He’s currently (as of 3-18-2013) No. 32 in the world so you can keep an eye on him in the majors and WGC-Bridgestone as he is a member of the European Tour.
Thorbjorn Olesen: The Dane just turned 23 but has already turned heads with a victory and a second on the European Tour last season. Already in 2013 he’s finished T2 at Abu Dhabi HSBC in January and T3 at Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February. Now, he knocks out another top 10, seventh, this week in March. He’s currently No. 41 in the OWGR and like Castano, he’s moving on up. If you read this column, you’ve seen his name before.
William McGirt: After making his first three cuts of the season which included a season-best T16 at AT&T, McGirt did not break 70 in his last three events (all MC) before heading to API. McGirt is a solid ball-striker and putter and hits the top 10 (T8) for the first time since finishing second at the RBC Canadian last summer. He’s now three-for-three at API in his first three years on TOUR.
Henrik Stenson: If you’re going to take a shot on the Swede in Florida, this looks to be the track. His last four trips to Bay Hill he’s posted T52, T47, T15 and T8 this year. In four starts in Europe this year he’s been no worse than T26 and he’s made two of three cuts on TOUR. It’s his second top 10 worldwide in three months. He might jump out in shallower fields. Mark him down.
Bill Haas: I figured he would play well earlier this year on the West Coast and he did but I didn’t see a top 10 from him this week after not breaking par at Doral in his last time out. Haas now has hit the top 10 (T8) in half of his eight starts in 2013. His previous best finish at API in five starts was only T17 so there wasn’t much that was pointing me in his direction this week. Two bogeys on Saturday and one birdie on Sunday wasn’t the grandstand finish that Haas was looking at but his 69-66 allowed him to remain in the top 10.
Jimmy Walker: He’s now made 17 cuts on the trot over the last two years and this is his third trip to the top 10 in just eight events. He had six top 10s in all of 2012 so to say his improvement under Butch Harmon is working would be a gross understatement. He’s been a regular in the Range Rover preview column this season and the next two weeks in Texas will not be any different!
Ken Duke: Flying the flag for the “old folks” on TOUR, Duke had it to 10-under and was right on the heels of Fowler and Woods before making four bogeys on his final 11 holes coming home. His T8 puts him in the top 10 for the second time in four starts at Bay Hill. The other two starts were MC. Before Bay Hill, Duke had missed five of seven cuts and his best finish was T43. There you go.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I take a look back at what happened to the chalk
Brandt Snedeker: A mild surprise that he didn’t hit the ground running but sometimes the rust needs a week to fall off. He’s right back in the mix next week at Shell on slick greens.
Phil Mickelson: Ah, Mickelson. All or nothing. Won’t surprise me if he wins this week in Houston; won’t surprise me if he shoots 80. I give up.
Sergio Garcia: First he hits his ball in a tree. Second, he hits his ball out of said tree. Third, he injures himself jumping out of that tree and WDs, killing me in the one-and-done. Moral of the story: DON’T HIT YOUR BALL IN THE TREE.
Webb Simpson: He opened with 80. Well, ok, then. He’s knocking it around quite nicely Monday afternoon at The Tavistock Cup so he has a short memory. He still has six top 25s in nine starts. No concerns here.
Bubba Watson: He fired the round of the day on Sunday/Monday as his 67 shot him up 41 places to T14. Watson has played six events, has been cut once and has finished T18 or better in the other five.
Graeme McDowell: His final round 69 was his only round under par and in the 60s for the week. Loose iron play didn’t help but there was nothing critical about this performance that makes me wonder about his accurate driving and slick putting moving forward.
Ian Poulter: He mentioned on Twitter that he had a house full of sick kids and that never helps anything. If you’re upset you used him for one-and-done SHUT UP. You could have used Garcia, don’t forget. There, that’s better.
Lee Westwood: He fired 14 birdies to just nine bogeys to finish T63. I left out the part about making THREE triples. Yikes.
Jim Furyk: He just didn’t make enough birdies, eight, to make any noise this week. It was his worst start in 2013, T63, and first finish outside the top 35. No worries.
Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a live chat Wednesday at NOON ET at Rotoworld.com. We will be breaking down the fields at the Shell Houston Open (SHO) and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.