Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tiger Wins at Bay Hill for First PGA Tour Win Since 2009

On Sunday, Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill to earn his first PGA Tour victory since 2009.  He bested playing partner Graeme McDowell by 5 shots, finishing at 13-under for the week on a very tough Bay Hill setup that really showed its teeth on the weekend.  While Tiger had won a tournament late last year, it was his own event, an 18 man event at that.  Woods reentered the winners circle and is ready for Augusta National come Easter weekend.

Now, we know things have been rough for Tiger Woods' personal life and playing career these past few years, but it was a relief to finally see him notch a win in a pretty strong field. Woods is now a seven-time winner at this event.  While there was no flare for the dramatic this time like in years previous, Woods' steady play stood the test of the weekend as he was able to edge McDowell, who previously had erased a four-shot deficit in the final round against Tiger in the past to win. 

McDowell rolled in some pretty incredible putts in the final round, but Woods stayed composed, hitting beautifully struck iron shots to within a few feet, and he also putted great all week from inside of 10 feet.  His total driving was also remarkable as he hit many fairways in addition to being long off the tee.  This was a win that reminded fans of the dominant Tiger era, a time in which Tiger would win by 5-7 shots while fans knew it easily could have been more.

I felt the same about this week.  Thirteen-under is a great score, but it could have been even more.  Heading into The Masters, Woods' confidence has to be very high because of his track record there and the fact that he is playing pretty darn well right now.  With a little practice at Augusta National, Tiger should be ready to contend for his fifth green jacket.  I see his biggest competition being Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, and Lee Westwood.  If one of these five guys (Tiger included) does not win it, I'd be pretty shocked.  Tiger is in good form obviously, McIlroy is playing lights out, Donald just regained world #1, Mickelson knows how to handle Augusta, and Westwood is hungry for his first major.  If one of these guys doesn't win it, please tell me who will and why.

When the azaleas are in full bloom at Augusta in April, I don't know if there is a more beautiful scene.  Jim Nantz and the peaceful introduction music give me the chills every time.  Amen Corner instills fear in players, pimento/cheese sandwiches are dirt cheap, and patrons roam the grounds with all their Augusta gear on.  The Masters holds a special place in my heart, and I dream to go there some day and roam the grounds where the greats have made their names.

So who's your pick to take home this year's Masters?  Let me know who will win and why you think so.

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