Sunday, June 24, 2018

Woods wins record-tying eighth at Bay Hill, returns to No. 1

ORLANDO — The moment Monday was vintage Tiger Woods, and so was his reaction.

Seconds after Rickie Fowler made a 40-foot birdie on the 12th hole to pull within two shots of the lead, Woods posed over his 25-foot birdie putt until he swept the putter upward in his left hand and marched toward the cup as it dropped for a birdie.

Fowler, on the edge of the green, turned with a slight smile as if to say, "What else can I do?"

Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and returned to No. 1 in the world for the first time since October 2010, ending his longest spell out of the top spot. After all that time, after so much turmoil with his personal life and his health, Woods looks as good as ever.

Maybe better.

"It's a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments," Woods said.

He essentially wrapped up his eighth title at Bay Hill — this one delayed by a day because of storms on Sunday — with an 8-iron out of a fairway bunker on the par-5 16th that cleared the water and landed on the green for a two-putt birdie. Woods dangled his tongue out of his mouth as the ball was in the air, another sign of swagger.

He closed with 2-under 70 for a total of 13-under 275 to win by two over Justin Rose.

Woods walked off the 18th green waving his putter over his head to acknowledge the fans who have seen this act before. His eighth win at Bay Hill tied a PGA Tour record that had not been touched in 48 years.

Oh, and he's back to No. 1.

"If I get healthy, I know I can play this game at a high level," Woods said. "I know I can be where I'm contending in every event, contending in major championships and being consistent day in and day out — if I got healthy."

Asked if there was any correlation between the win and his recently going public with his relationship with skier Lindsey Vonn, Woods smiled and said, "You're reading way too much into this."

Woods' 77th win brought him within five of Sam Snead's all-time record and tied Snead's PGA record for wins at a tournament (Snead won eight Greater Greensboro Opens from 1938-65 at two courses). Woods also tied his record for wins at one course, having won eight at Torrey Pines, including a U.S. Open.

"I don't really see anybody touching it for a long time," tournament host Palmer said of record that the late Snead now shares with Woods.

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