Tiger Woods returns to the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard after a five-year absence, and it’s only natural, given his record here on the Championship Course, to expect that he’ll return to his winning ways at Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Making his 18th appearance at this prestigious invitational, Woods owns a record eight titles, including his last appearance in 2013 when he defeated Justin Rose by two strokes. But the former World No. 1 player knows you can’t take anything for granted.
“Just because I won here eight times doesn’t mean I’m going to win this week automatically. I’ve still got to do the work,” he cautioned during his Tuesday press conference. “I’ve still got to go through the process of getting myself in position. But I understand this golf course.”
He certainly understands how to win here, capturing the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur before he went crazy eights in this tournament. Woods has not missed the cut as a professional in the Arnold Palmer Invitational while earning $7.3 million. In 66 competitive rounds at Bay Hill, Woods' stroke average is a mesmerizing 68.363.
Woods, 42, is coming off a tie for second place in last week’s Valspar Championship in nearby Palm Harbor Fla., his best finish yet in his comeback from spinal surgery last year. To say he is encouraged is an understatement.
“Each and every week I've learned from what I've done and more importantly I'm learning my body,” he explained. “I'm learning how I can swing it and not swing it. My recovery, these are all things that are new. So, I'm still learning, I'm getting a lot better at it, which is nice and I think that you're starting to see the fruits of that now of the little tweaks I've made. I'm excited about it.”
If Woods were to win a ninth title this week – and it would be his third in a row after wins in 2012 as well as ’13 – he would break the PGA TOUR record he currently shares with Sam Snead for most victories in one event.
Regardless of the outcome, the former Orlando resident is simply pleased to be back at Bay Hill, where he shared great memories with the legendary host.
“Yeah, to be able to win this tournament,” he said, “and to have Arnold there and to shake his hand and for him to give me a big hug and a couple times he says, ‘I called it, I knew you were going to make that putt.’ And it was little things like that, sharing jokes with him out there on the green, and he and I laughing. Those are moments that unfortunately that I'll never have [again], but I have those memories.”