Tiger is set for Augusta pounce

Tiger Woods said his first win in over two years on the PGA Tour gave him immense pleasure and that it had just been a matter of patience to finally get back to winning ways.

Woods held off Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five strokes and finally end the nagging doubts over whether he could ever succeed again.

“It was just pure joy,” a smiling Woods said. “It felt good. This is our progression and we are heading in the right direction. I’ve gotten better and that’s the main thing. If you look at my results I’ve been close for a number of tournaments now.

“It was just a matter of staying the course and staying patient, keep working on fine tuning what we are doing and, well, here we are.”

Woods now has 72 career wins on the PGA Tour after the longest gap between victories in his career ended on a course where he has now won seven times. During his drought, he had to deal with knee and Achilles injuries and the much publicized fallout from the breakdown of his marriage and eventual divorce.

The 14-time major winner also went through a comprehensive rebuilding of his swing with coach Sean Foley and the only time he was able to celebrate was when he won his own tournament, the non-tour Chevron Challenge, in December.

Woods said his caddie Joe LaCava had sensed that he was getting close to the breakthrough. “I’ve been so close to putting it all together and Joey has been ‘Man, you’ve been a yard off all year’,” he said.

“Sixty five should be the highest number I could possibly shoot a lot of times but it’s just a yard here and a yard there. I just said, ‘be patient, it is coming’ and today, when the wind blew like this, to be able to have that kind of control, it feels good.”

All eyes will be on whether the 36-year-old can take another step closer to Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major wins at next month’s US Masters now.

“I’ve won here on a few occasions going into Augusta which has always been a good feeling,” he said. “I still have some work to do but I’m excited about the things that we have accomplished.

“Each day this week there was a little bit of fine tuning and we were able to make those adjustments, which was good, especially with the conditions getting more difficult on the weekend.

“I was able to hit some really good shots, the last two days and that’s a very good sign going into Augusta. You are looking for everything to come together for that one week. I understand how to play Augusta National and it is just a matter of executing the game plan.”

Victory at Augusta would bring Woods level with Nicklaus on 73 tour wins, nine short of record-holder Sam Snead’s 82. Woods said, however, that the stat would be far from his mind at Augusta.

“I’m looking forward more to the green jacket part of it than tying Jack, in that regard. I’m looking forward to my opportunities this year. There are four of them and hopefully I can peak at the right time for all four of them.” –

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