Tiger Woods / Getty Images
Tiger Woods / Getty Images
Tiger Woods still knows how to close — It's hard to believe we ever questioned whether one of the greatest closers in the history of golf could shut the door on Sunday afternoon. But given Woods' weekend struggles when he was in contention recently, it was impossible to consider him a near-lock to walk away with his seventh win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Despite the questions, Woods looked rock-solid for most of the day, shaking off an early three-putt bogey before closing out the front nine with four birdies in a seven hole stretch. That pretty much sealed the deal for Woods, who was able to coast for much of the back nine, and kept the mistakes to a minimum. He's now won 38 of 40 PGA Tour events when holding the outright lead after 54-holes. We all wondered if the struggles at Pebble and Abu Dhabi were a harbinger for Sunday's final round, but once again, Tiger proved that he's about as sure as they come when leading on Sunday. With his first official win in more than two years under his belt, we can officially stop talking about his final round issues.
It's time to give Sean Foley his due — Tiger Woods certainly deserves all the credit for Sunday's win, but swing coach Sean Foley gets a nod for the work he's put in over the last couple of years with the 14-time major winner. After being questioned for his decision to rework Woods' swing early on, it's clear, based on what we've seen over the last year, that Foley was right all along. Woods' active lower body -- which was a big part of his swing, and injury issues -- is now incredibly quiet, and for the first time in awhile, he appears to have the swing under complete control. The stinger, distance control, and trajectory are all back. Foley's all but faded into the background after getting into a verbal battle with Hank Haney last year, but it's hard not to look at his body of work and be impressed. He's certainly working wonders with three of the top players in the sport.
Ernie Els now finds himself in a must-win situation — It wasn't nearly as bad as the missed four-footer on the 72nd hole at the Transitions Championship, but Ernie Els' bogey on the par-3 17th, on Sunday, now means he'll need to win in Houston to make the Masters. Needing a solo third to get inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Els stumbled down Bay Hill's closing stretch, finishing T-4 to cap another gut-wrenching week. After two weeks of mentally-taxing, near-misses, you have to wonder what he has left in the tank.
Bud Cauley makes an appearance — The PGA Tour rookie was touted as one to watch when the season began, and so far he's lived up to the hype, posting 3 top 25 finishes in nine starts. His T-4 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was his best since a third place showing at last season's Frys.com Open. Cauley finished inside the top 20 in a number of major state categories this week, including Driving Distance (16th), Strokes Gained (18) and Putts Per GIR (20). He now has two top 20 finishes in his last two events and looks primed to make some noise. Seriously, watch out for this kid in the near future.
Big names absent at Bay Hill — Arnold Palmer has been one of golf's greatest ambassadors over the years, but apparently his name still isn't making an impression on some of the tour's rising stars. While Woods, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson showed up, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler decided to skip out on the event. It's hard to tell if it's scheduling conflicts or the Bay Hill layout, but for some reason the young guys just don't seem that interested in the event -- which is a shame considering everything Palmer has done over the years to grow the sport.
- Tiger Woods
- Arnold Palmer Invitational
- Arnold Palmer