Woods started the day one stroke ahead of Graeme McDowell, and, to be honest, I thought McDowell had the better chance of winning the event based off of his previous play. However, he pretty much flushed that prediction down the toilet after just the first hole, where he made a double bogey. In fact, practically everyone around Tiger was dropping shots early, and it would continue to occur throughout the day.
The key hole of the tournament in my view came on hole 12, a medium length par 5 that played long with the wind. Tiger was up three shots up after McDowell made a great birdie on 11, and the momentum seemed to be shifting in Graeme's favor after Woods pulled his tee shot on the next hole. However, Tiger then hit a fantastic second shot, a massive slice over and around trees to about 30 yards from the green. Graeme hit a poor second shot that landed in a bunker short left of the green, and ended up making bogey on the hole while Woods was able to get away with a great par. From there Tiger had a four shot lead and just went into cruise control for the rest of the event, eventually winning by five strokes.
Even though many of the players around Tiger shot over par on the day, it shouldn't take away from the fact that Tiger played rock solid on Sunday with his two-under 70, which included great drives, pure iron shots, and clutch putts that characterized the Tiger of old. He's been playing this way for a while now, and anyone following him since the end of 2011 knew he was going to win an official event sooner or later (I wrote in a December 2011 article that he would win at least two events in 2012). The question now becomes whether or not he can get back into the winner's circle when it comes to the majors.
Before this week's event I had Rory McIlroy as the favorite to win the Masters, but after seeing Tiger play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational I now have to give the nod to Woods instead. His stats for the year are incredible to say the least: first in total driving, first in ball striking, first in putting from 3-5 feet and 20-25 feet, second in scoring average, and fourth in greens in regulation. He is firing on all cylinders right now, and it is amazing to watch him play. If he can stay anywhere near this pace over the next few years, I have no doubt that he can break Nicklaus' majors record.
Ryan Kekoufski is a scratch golfer who has both played and watched the sport for well over a decade. He covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network, and currently resides in Virginia.
- Tiger Woods
- Graeme McDowell
- Arnold Palmer Invitational