World No. 2 Tiger Woods seeks eighth win in Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
Tiger Woods made it official today: The defending and seven-time champion will play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
It should have been a surprise to no one that Woods ended a three-year victory drought on the PGA TOUR last year at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
After all, Arnold Palmer might own the place, but Woods seems to have permanent residence status at the top of the leaderboard.
With a steady 2-under-par 70 on the Championship Course, Woods posted a five-stroke victory over Graeme McDowell and extended his record win total to seven titles at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
If Woods were to add one more victory at Bay Hill, he would tie Sam Snead with the most wins in a PGA TOUR event. Snead won the Greensboro tournament, now called the Wyndham Championship, eight times from1938 to 1965.
Last year's Bay Hill win marked Woods's 72nd PGA TOUR title, and he has since added three more as he moved past Jack Nicklaus into second place on the all-time victory list behind only Snead's 82 wins. Only two players have ever successfully defended a title in the previous 34 years at Bay Hill. Loren Roberts won back-to-back in 1994- 95, while Woods won four in a row from 2000-03 and pulled off consecutive wins in 2008-09. He would have to be considered the favorite again when the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard is held March 18-24.
"Heck, he'll probably win it again," Palmer said with a chuckle when asked about having Woods back for another run. "Obviously, he likes the golf course."
"It's always great to win Bay Hill," said Woods, who a few months previously had posted an unofficial victory at the Chevron World Challenge, a limited field event that he hosts in California. "I had won my event at Sherwood a few months before, but it was cool winning another TOUR title, especially there."
Woods, who has won six of his seven titles at Bay Hill as a professional after holding the 54-hole lead (he also won the 1991 USGA Junior Amateur at Bay Hill), said he enjoys the "classic" challenge of Arnie's layout. Last year he posted a 13-under-par 275 total.
"The golf is right in front of you. You have to think your way around the course and be able to hit a variety of shots," Woods said. "You know what shots are required, and then you have to execute. Changes have been made over the years, but it's still a good, classic layout."
The Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard represents one of seven tournaments that Woods has won at least four times in his career. The others: BMW Championship, Buick Invitational, Masters Tournament, Memorial Tournament, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and WGC-American Express Championship.
Woods would like to add yet one more Bay Hill victory if only to have the chance to shake Palmer's hand when he walks off the 18th green. He was denied that privilege last year when Palmer had to leave the tournament before the finish because of precautionary medical reasons.
"It wasn't the same without Arnold there at No. 18," Woods admitted. "My first concern was for him, and I was relieved when I found out it was nothing serious. That moment we spend together after my previous wins means a lot to me. It's always great seeing Arnold at Bay Hill, Augusta or anywhere else."
Conversely, most players probably dread the sight of Woods when he walks onto Bay Hill's Championship Course.