Tiger Woods was in bullish mood after regaining the world number one ranking for the first time since October 2010 with victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday.
Woods was rarely stretched en route to his eighth title at Bay Hill – equalling Sam Snead’s record of wins at a single PGA Tour event – and his third of the season from five starts.
He finished with 70 in the final round which was held over after a freak storm hit Orlando on Sunday, with his charge boosted by birdies at all par-five holes as he finished on 13 under par overall and two shots clear of England’s Justin Rose.
Now he is back at the top of the rankings, there will be added expectation on Woods to add to his haul of 14 Majors when the Masters gets under way in a little over two weeks’ time, and the 37-year-old talked up his chances afterwards.
“I’ve turned some of the weaknesses that I had last year into strengths. I’m really excited about the rest of this year,” he told reporters.
“The very beginning of the year I was excited because of how the end of last year turned. My short game came around, I thought my swing was getting better, my short irons got better, lo and behold, I won a few tournaments this year.”
When asked if he would have to win at one of the four big tournaments to appease the doubters, Woods was more typically forthright.
“It’s up to them. It’s their opinion, I’m very pleased with the way I’m playing,” he said.
It was, nevertheless, a day to savour for Woods, who had dipped outside the world’s top 50 at one point as a result of personal problems, injury and a loss of form.
The American admitted his battle to re-establish himself amongst the world’s elite had been a tough journey.
“It was a by-product of hard work, patience and getting back to playing golf tournaments,” he added.
“I’ve won some golf tournaments in the last couple of years and consequently I’ve moved up.”
It was also a day to remember for Rose, who will move up to number three in the world for the first time following his second place finish.
The South African-born 32-year-old was the halfway leader although a third-round 72 stunted his challenge and he was never in a position to push Woods today after two bogies in his first three holes.
He then picked up four birdies to finish with 70 and 11 under par overall to end his week on a high note.
It was Woods’ playing partner Rickie Fowler who came closest to setting up a thrilling climax as some sensational putting helped him move to within two strokes with three holes remaining.
His challenge evaporated after a disastrous triple-bogey eight at the 16th and an ultimately disappointing round of 73 was only good enough for a tie for third alongside American compatriots Keegan Bradley and Mark Wilson and Spaniard Gonzalo Fdez-Castano.
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