ORLANDO, Florida (AP) ― Tiger Woods finally brought the buzz back to the very thing that made him famous ― winning.
It was his first PGA Tour victory since a sex scandal at the end of 2009 led to one of the greatest downfalls in sports. And with the Masters only two weeks away, Woods looks more capable of ever than resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus in the majors.
Woods closed with a 2-under 70 for a five-shot win over Graeme McDowell.
The question two weeks ago was when he could play again. Now, it’s whether he can get back to player who once ruled golf.
Even though he won the unofficial Chevron World Challenge last December, this was meaningful for Woods ― a full tour event against a strong field, and a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine.
|Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd as he approaches the 18th green on Sunday. (AFP-Yonhap News)|
The final hole was a mere formality, and Woods tapped his putter on the ground waiting for his turn, knowing that 30 months without a win on the PGA Tour was about to win. He walked off the green with his arm extended, waving his cap to a raucous gallery.
“It does feel good. It feels really good,” Woods said before signing his card. “It’s been a lot of hard work.”
Woods finished at 13-under 275 for his 72nd PGA Tour win, one short of Nicklaus for second place on the career list. But that’s not the record Woods wants. He has 14 majors, four shot of the Nicklaus standard, and he tries to end a four-year drought at the Masters, which starts April 5.
“I am excited, no doubt,” Woods said. “I’m looking forward to the momentum I’ve built here.”
It was the first time Woods had all four rounds under par since he returned from his personal crisis at the 2010 Masters.
McDowell made a 45-foot birdie putt and a 50-foot eagle putt early in the round to try to stay close, though he was never closer than two shots after starting with a double bogey. He closed with a 74.
Ernie Els failed in his bid to get into the Masters. The three-time major champion started the final round three shots behind, but twice missed par putts inside 3 feet and shot 75. He would have needed a two-way tie for second to crack the top 50 in the world. Instead, he tied for fourth and will have to win the Houston Open next week to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 1993.