Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 22-25, 69-65-71-70 (Win)
Perhaps it is fitting that Tiger Woods returned to his winning ways after 30 worldwide tournaments and a heap of drama at a place just a few miles from his old Isleworth home, where his troubles first came to light on Thanksgiving night in 2009. The aftermath included time away from the game, a divorce, a new caddie and instructor, injuries, and the constant questions about whether he would win again.
But Woods was clearly on the right path, especially when healthy, and that became evident at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge, where he led the field in greens in regulation and dominated the par-5s like the old days. Woods played the 16 par-5s in 12 under par and ended the tournament 13 under for the week. He finished ahead of runner-up Graeme McDowell by 5 strokes.
The victory was his seventh at the Arnold Palmer tournament and 72nd on the PGA Tour, putting him just one behind Jack Nicklaus and 10 behind Sam Snead. For the 49th time out of 53 tries in his PGA Tour career, he converted a 54-hole lead to victory.
"I still need some work, and it's going to be good to get a week off and work on a few things,'' Woods said. "I enjoyed the progression we made this week. Each day, there was a little bit of fine tuning here and there, and we were able to make those adjustments, which was good, and especially with the conditions getting more difficult on the weekend. I was able to hit some really good shots the last two days, and that's a very good sign going into Augusta.''
Woods said he would not be visiting Augusta National this week. He made his lone pre-tournament visit to the course on March 18 to get a scouting report on a few subtle changes to some greens. He'll spend the week at home on Jupiter Island, Fla. and at the Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., practicing and is expected to be at Augusta National on Sunday.
Once there, the focus will again be on him. Woods tied for fourth in each of the past two years when his game was nowhere near the level it is now. He has not finished worse than sixth since winning the last of his four green jackets in 2005. And, with Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson all winning in the past two months, there are plenty of storylines.
If Woods fails to win, he will have gone a full four years since his last major championship victory at the 2008 U.S. Open. That is clearly the next goal to conquer.
The process continues.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.