Trust Tiger Woods to make it all the way back to world No 1 in the grand manner. After the tornado on Sunday came the sport’s very own force of nature, as Woods ended Rory McIlroy’s eight-month reign at the summit with a two-stroke triumph over Justin Rose at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
They say there are no certainties in sport but did anyone really expect Tiger to falter with history on the line and Arnie’s tournament in the palm of his hand? That makes it two wins from his last two starts and six victories in his last 20 outings. Next stop? Augusta National, and the Masters. This was Tiger’s eighth victory here to tie Sam Snead’s wins at the Greensboro Open for the most by one player at the same event. Palmer played with Snead and has witnessed Tiger’s triumphs at the course he built and owns. ‘I never thought we’d see someone match Sam’s achievement, but then I never thought we’d see a lot of what Tiger has ended up doing,’ said the 83-year-old. ‘I remember having the chance to win an event five times and I know how difficult that was, so for someone to win eight times in this era — well, it’s a miracle.’
Suffice to say, it is hard to imagine how Woods’ Masters preparations could be more complete. He even hit a few fairways for good measure, which was really showing off. But what will strike fear into the hearts of his competitors is that he has recaptured his incredible flair for escapology. There was a wonderful ‘Tiger moment’ at the par-five 12th, where Rickie Fowler, his closest challenger until he made a complete mess of the long 16th, rolled in a 30ft birdie putt.
It left Woods looking over a 25ft birdie putt of his own if the lead was not to be cut to two strokes. You can guess what happened next, can’t you? Six feet from home and Tiger’s left arm was raised straight to the sky in triumphant mode. Moments later the ball dropped into the hole and the audience went wild. ‘I just pured it,’ said Woods, coining a new verb that covered much of his work on the day. They say technology has dulled the ability of players to hit a variety of shots but watching Woods in this form renders the argument ludicrous. High, low, left, right — you name it, he pulled it off on a cool, sunny day with the course protected by a tricky 15mph wind.
Tiger Woods was dressed in his usual red and black, and Fowler in his familiar last-day orange. Fowler’s a good young player but next to Woods on this day it was like watching Manchester United against Blackpool. ‘I can’t believe the size of the crowd,’ said grateful host Palmer, but it just goes to show the considerable lengths people will go to when a Woods landmark has moved into view. Most of the time Monday finishes are flat affairs, with the crowds small and the corporate tents empty. But it wasn’t when Tiger won the US Open in 2008 and it wasn’t again here, with every fairway lined several people deep. This was a people’s crowd too, with a few turning up just to see what all the fuss was about.
‘Gee, I never knew how tiring all this walking can be,’ said one fatigued soul, and he still had eight holes to go. Fowler did get within two shots on the 16th before hitting a terrible second shot into the water and compounding the error by putting another one in the hazard as well. Rose was the main beneficiary of those mistakes, as the man of the first half of this compelling event saw an encouraging last 14 holes, played in four under par, gain a significant reward as he moved up to a career-high world No 3.
He was never troubling Tiger, though. The new world No 1 answered a few congratulatory texts before coming into the media centre dressed in the winner’s jacket of blue. What price on him having replaced it in three weeks with a green one? – Dailymail