As Tiger Woods walked down the 18th fairway at Bay Hill Country Club, everybody from grown men to little girls let out shrieks of praise as they witnessed a golf icon end the longest winless streak of his career. When Woods walked up to his ball, he let out a brief smile, knowing he was about to taste sweet relief, an unloading of pressure that has built on him over the past couple years.
He squatted down, eyeing his lie, put his hand on the brim of his hat, and shook his putter in a moment of self-accomplishment. He tapped in to secure his five-stroke victory at 13-under, tipped his cap, and hugged his caddy. There was no putter flip, no barbaric yell, and no massive fist pump. That wasn't necessary. His face said it all, torn between overbearing joy and immeasurable comfort as he sank into something he hadn't experienced since his last PGA Tour win in September of '09 at the BMW Championship. By winning his seventh Arnold Palmer invitational, he looked as though he'd finally come back home.
"It does feel good. It feels really good. It's been a lot of hard work," Woods said at the edge of the 18th green. "I'm so thankful for all of the people helping me out along the way. You know who you are. Today was unbelievable. ... It was incredible to have that type of support here."
Woods finished with a final round two-under 70, good enough to comfortably beat second-place finisher Graeme McDowell. The win comes only two weeks after he withdrew from the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, leaving fans tired of waiting for the old Tiger to come back questioning whether he'd ever win again. Although he did take first at Chevron World Challenge in December of '11, that wasn't official. A tournament named after the legenary Arnold Palmer is official.
Today, he did what he was known for in his prime, excelling against tough pin placements and windy conditions when others couldn't keep up. Out of the final eight twosomes that teed off Sunday, Woods was the only person under par. Heading full-steam ahead with a load of emotional momentum into the Masters, he has officially given others something to be worried about.
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