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Tiger Woods returns to winning ways at long last with victory at Bay Hill

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Tiger Woods, winning? That can't be right. Oh, but it is. (Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods won a tournament. That story seems familiar, somehow, but I just can't place it.

At long last, after the hydrant, the "transgressions," the Perkins waitress, the divorce, the injury and the endless streams of jokes, Woods has finally won again. It's been 924 days since Woods won a tournament, 924 days during which, at some point, everyone who's ever followed Woods must have wondered if he'd ever win again.

But he did on Sunday in comfortable confines, at Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he's now won seven times. He did so facing down one of his more persistent challengers in Graeme McDowell; it was McDowell who denied Woods a victory in 2010 by catching and passing him at the Chevron Classic.

[ Adelson: If 'Old' Tiger is back, the rest of the tour should be worried ]

On this day, though, nobody was catching Woods. He started the day at 11-under and posted a 2-under 70; only two players, Brian Harman and J.B. Holmes, bettered that figure, and they were both already long gone and on their way to the airport by the time Woods walked triumphantly up the 18th fairway. Woods played a very un-Woods-like game, at least of recent vintage: He actually kept the ball on the fairways and got putts to drop.

Certainly, he wasn't perfect; his putter started taking on water by the end of the round. He'll need to be far more precise if he hopes to take down guys like Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, players who have risen to prominence in the vacuum created by Woods' absence at the top of the leaderboard.

But Bay Hill is no backwater muni, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational is no opposite-field tour. This is huge, not just for Woods but for the game of golf.

In the coming days, there will be plenty of talk about Woods' "resurrection" and "revival," and that's just fine. Appropriate, even. He'll certainly come into Augusta as one of the odds-on favorites. Since Woods last won, 72 different players have taken down tournaments on tour, but not a single one means as much to the vast majority of the viewing public, and the game itself, as Woods.

When the final putt dropped, Woods exulted with a simple shout and a nod of his head. No fist pump, no hat-slinging, just relief. Imagine, just for a second, what he must have felt, the renewal, the joy. For all of his self-inflicted injuries, he earned this. He deserved it.

Tiger's back. And one of the best seasons in golf just got even better.

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