ORLANDO, Fla. – The moment was vintage Tiger Woods, and so was his reaction.
Seconds after Rickie Fowler made a 40-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole to pull within two shots of the lead, Woods posed over a 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, standing on the edge of the green, pursed a slight smile as if to say, “What else can I do?”
Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Monday and returned to No. 1 in the world for the first time since October 2010, the longest spell of his career.
“It’s a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments,” he said.
He essentially wrapped up his eighth title at Bay Hill with an 8-iron out of a fairway bunker on the par-5 16th that easily cleared the water and landed safely 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 his swagger.
Just like his other two wins this year, Woods never let anyone get closer than two shots in the final round. With a conservative bogey he could afford on the final hole, he closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot win over Justin Rose.
Next up is the Masters, where Woods will try to end his five-year drought in majors.
“I’m really excited about the rest of this year,” said Woods, fell as low as No. 58 in the world as he coped with the collapse of his marriage, a loss of sponsors and injuries.
One week after he announced he was dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, he’s back on top.
“Number 1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!” Vonn tweeted moments after his win.