The third round of the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational, on Saturday, March 24, 2012, ended with a familiar name at the top of the leaderboard, Tiger Woods. A six-time champion of this tournament (most recently in 2009), held at the Bay Hil Club & Lodge course in Orlando, Florida, Woods finished Saturday's play at 11-under par overall, one shot ahead of Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.
Tiger Woods was the most dominant golfer in the world for more than a decade, beginning in the late 1990s. Recently, however, he has not won a full-field event on the PGA Tour since the BMW Championship in September of 2009. His inability to win a Tour event in either 2010 or 2011, in more than 20 attempts, led to speculation about whether he would ever win again, as well as where he belonged on the list of all-time greatest golfers.
Throughout his career, Tiger Woods has been almost unbeatable when having the lead after 54 holes, losing only twice in 39 prior such events on the PGA Tour. Graeme McDowell had reason to feel some confidence, however, having come from four shots behind to beat Woods head-to-head in the final round of the 2010 Chevron World Challenge.
In Sunday's final round of the Palmer Invitational, McDowell opened with a double bogey at the par-4 first hole, increasing the margin to three shots. An eagle at the par-5 sixth brought him back to within two shots, but a bogey at number 9 left him four shots behind with nine holes to play. Tiger Woods had no difficulty closing out the tournament, finishing at 13-under par for 72 holes, to claim his seventh victory at Bay Hill by a final margin of five shots.
The discussion about who is the greatest golfer of all time frequently revolves around two men, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Some fans point to Jack Nicklaus' 18 major championships, compared to 14 for Tiger Woods, as the decisive factor. There are others who look at longevity, noting that Nicklaus claimed at least one PGA Tour victory in 17 consecutive years, while Woods' streak ended at 14 with his last win in 2009. Jack Nicklaus finished with 73 career wins on the PGA Tour. With his victory at the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger Woods now has 72.
With a victory at the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament, to be played April 5-8 at Augusta National Golf Club, Tiger Woods can finally catch Jack Nicklaus in career victories on the PGA Tour. More than 25 years since Nicklaus' last win, at the 1986 Masters, it may be time for someone to match his career victory total*.
Harold Andrews has played golf (competitively and recreationally) for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest golfer of all time.
* The author is well aware that Sam Snead holds the record for most career PGA Tour victories, with 82. Nicklaus is currently second and Woods third.
- Tiger Woods
- Arnold Palmer Invitational
- PGA Tour
- Jack Nicklaus
- Graeme McDowell