Only 2 weeks after his win at Doral, Tiger Woods and his magic putter coasted to their 77th career win on Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Woods has now won 3 out of the last 4 stroke play events he’s entered in 2013. He also tied legend Sam Snead with 8 wins in a single PGA Tour event.
After stroking his winning putt on the 18th green a jubilant Woods strolled off to shake the hand of host Arnold Palmer and said: “How about that!”
In real terms how about the fact that he’s won 6 out of his last 20 events on Tour and is now only 5 wins shy of the all-time 82 win record of fellow American Sam Snead.
It took Snead 29 years to get to 82 wins and it’s only taken Woods 17 to get this far. On whether the Tiger Woods intimidation factor is beginning again, 2 time major winner and Golf Channel/NBC commentator Johnny Miller remarked: “I think it is more than beginning, it is here and doubled up.” Tournament host Arnold Palmer said: “I don’t really see anybody touching it for a long time,” when asked about Tiger’s record of winning his event 8 times.
Woods teed off at 8:06 a.m. on a cool Thursday morning in round 1. He was walking along-side the Englishman Justin Rose and the big South African Ernie Els. Rose played a great round and wasn’t the least bit nervous in going head to head against Tiger.
At the end of the day, Rose shot an impressive 7 under par 65 (par 72) to take the 1st round lead over the young American John Huh who shot a 5 under par 67. Woods ended the day in 5th place after shooting a 3 under 69.
Rose was asked to comment on what it was like to be paired with Tiger: “He’s always been the perfect playing partner. He’s very complimentary out there and we always have a good time,” he said. Tiger was asked about his performance to which he responded: “I scored well. I certainly didn’t play my best, but I got around and made a few good saves out there.”
Rose came out in round 2 with more steady play and posted a 2 under par 70 to move his lead to 9 under. Joining him at the top of the leaderboard was American Bill Haas who shot a 6 under par 66 to get to 9 under for the event.
The duo was being pursued once again by John Huh who posted a 3 under par 69 to reach 8 under for the event, only 1 stroke back. Tiger kept pace with the leaders with a 2 under par 70 despite a poor finish with 3 consecutive bogeys on the closing holes.
He was still 4 strokes back at 5 under. Rose was asked if Tiger’s finish was out of character: “Yeah, absolutely. He’s normally a fast finisher, and you can expect him to probably finish fast on the weekend.” To that end Tiger had come from behind to win 3 times in his past 7 triumphs at Bay Hill after 36 holes.
Woods purely came to perform at Bay Hill in round 3. His putting from under 5 meters was the stuff of legends. He made 5 birdies and an eagle against a solitary bogey to shoot a 6 under 66 to take the lead at 11 under par.
Rose for his part could only muster an even par 72 to stay at 9 under par sharing 2nd place with the likes of John Huh and the young American Rickie Fowler.
Until the final round, Woods the consummate closer, had converted 51 out of 55 third round leads into victories including 20 of his last 21.
His next target is the Masters Tournament in 3 weeks and the first major championship of the year. He hasn’t won at Augusta in 8 long years and is seeking his first major win since June 2008.
Woods was asked when the last time was that he felt this good about his game going to Augusta. His
candid response was: “It’s been a few years.”