Tiger Woods finds his winning touch

Published : Apr 04, 2009 00:00 IST

Playing only his third tournament since returning from reconstructive knee surgery, Woods birdied the final hole for a three-under-par 67 and a record sixth victory at the Bay Hill Club. "It feels good to be back," Woods said. By Steve Furlong.

Tiger Woods came from five strokes behind to overhaul his fellow American Sean O'Hair and win his 66th PGA Tour title by a shot at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando on March 29.

Playing only his third tournament since returning from reconstructive knee surgery, Woods birdied the final hole for a three-under- par 67 and a record sixth victory at the Bay Hill Club. "It feels good to be back," Woods said.

The world no. 1 finally caught O'Hair at the 15th green with a birdie as his rival parred and, with three holes to play, the two Americans were tied in the lead at five under, three shots clear of the field.

Woods missed the fairway off the 16th tee but O'Hair failed to capitalise and handed his rival the advantage by sending his second shot with a hop off the bank and into water on the way to a bogey.

Woods laid up with his second shot, 109 yards from the hole but his third shot was a beauty, a pitching wedge to inside four feet as O'Hair waited to play his fourth shot having taken a penalty drop on the greenside fringe.

Woods holed his par putt and, with two to play, was alone in the lead at five under for the first time since winning the US Open from Rocco Mediate at the 91st hole last June. Although Woods stumbled at the next hole, where his tee shot ended up under the lip of a greenside bunker, he calmly rolled in a 16-footer on the 18th green for a five-under total of 275.

"To feel the heat on the back nine like that; to have to make a putt at 14 (to save par) and to make that putt, those are good times," Woods said. "It feels good to be back in contention again and to feel the rush and to have to deal with everything coming down the stretch. It's been a while, obviously since the US Open that I've had to deal with the back nine and it was good."

O'Hair, meanwhile, stressed the positives from his week, even though it did not end in victory. "I'm playing great, and the swing changes that I'm making are coming around, and obviously I think today just kind of proves that I still don't quite have it yet," O'Hair said. "But that doesn't mean I'm not going in the right direction. I think all in all I take nothing but positives from this. Obviously it's just a little bit disappointing that I couldn't close it."

Colin montgomerie said that he will have to stop making mental errors if he is to end a run of nearly two years without a tournament win. In second place after an opening 67 at the Andalucian Open in Seville, his 500th European Tour event as a professional, Europe's Ryder Cup captain finished outside the top 30 after closing with rounds of 75 and 74.

"I wasted dozens of shots this week and the last time I played," said Montgomerie, who has not had a top-10 finish since July 2008. "It's not good enough. I just seem to be making mental mistakes that I never ever made; there are so many creeping in that weren't there before. To compete and win I've got to stop them. I'll have a think, come back and try again."

Having failed to qualify for the Masters - he is now 137th in the world - the Scot's next tournament will be the Volvo China Open.

The shot which had him most annoyed on that Saturday was an eight-iron into a bunker at the end of his third round. "Just hopeless, terrible," said the eight-time Order of Merit winner.


The top ten finishers in the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament in Orlando, Florida. 275: Tiger Woods (U.S.) 68-69-71-67; 276: Sean O’Hair (U.S.) 67-65-71-73; 278: Zach Johnson (U.S.) 72-69-68-69; 279: John Senden (Australia) 70-69-73-67; Nick Watney (U.S.) 67-71-73-68; Pat Perez (U.S.) 70-70-70-69; Scott Verplank (U.S.) 70-69-71-69; 280 Kenny Perry (U.S.) 70-71-72-67; Daniel Chopra (Sweden) 68-71-72-69; Jason Gore (U.S.) 65-70-74-71.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009

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