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Woods’ win at Bay Hill just like clockwork

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David Whitley
March 30, 2009
— In this crazy world, it’s good to know you can still count on a couple of things. The sun will go down, as will Tiger Woods’ final putt.

The only question Sunday was which would come first.


The sun officially beat the putt by nine minutes. But at 7:52 p.m., Tiger officially notified the world he is back.


Woods made a 16-foot birdie putt to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It was the biggest official night win of Tiger’s career, and the reaction was almost unanimous.


“Can you believe it?”


“Unbelievable!”


Consider that a case of people getting caught up in the excitement. For a more sober reaction, we turn to one of the golfers who played with Woods.


“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him make a putt when he needed it,” Zach Johnson said. “And that was the epitome of sarcasm.”


The last three times Tiger has made a birdie on the 72nd hole to win were at Arnie’s tournament. He could be attacked by killer bees in his backswing and an earthquake could strike as the ball rolled toward the hole.


If it was on the 18th hole at Bay Hill, the ball would drop.


“I hit a pure putt,” he said of his latest effort.


It sounded routine, but this one was different in a lot of ways. It had been 286 days, one rebuilt knee and a new baby boy since Woods won a tournament.


Being Tiger, many would have expected him to win on crutches. But he was eliminated in his first match-play event, then Phil Mickelson beat him at Doral two weeks ago.


No worries. The first one confirmed that his knee was sound. During the second one, he got his feel back.


“This week,” Tiger said, “I just came out and played.”


Just for drama’s sake, his play left him five shots behind Sean O’Hair going into the final round. Then Woods birdied the first two holes and the only thing that seemed in doubt was whether he’d also beat the daylights out of daylight.


Thanks to Sunday morning’s rain, the final threesome didn’t tee off until 2:49 p.m. If it had been five minutes later, Palmer would have needed to distribute night-vision goggles to the gallery on the final hole.


“Playoff!” someone yelled at Woods.


“Nahhhh,” he said.


Woods wasn’t going to let up then, not after finally re-familiarizing himself with that taste he loves so much.


“I hadn’t been in the mix since the U.S. Open,” he said. “It was neat to feel the heat on the back nine again.”


He took the lead on 16, gave it back with bogey on 17, all of which set up the deja vu 18th. There have been many amazing moments in Woods’ career, but one day golf historians will look back and wonder just what the deal was with Bay Hill.


He beat Mickelson on the last hole in 2001 thanks to an errant tee shot that bounced off a fan. He won one year with a case of food poisoning that had him dry-heaving all over the course.


He curled in a 25-footer last year to win. Was there any doubt that uphill 16-footer was going down Sunday?


What is it about Bay Hill?


“It’s not too often you have the greatest legend in the history of golf present you with a trophy,” Woods said.


Not too often? Palmer has presented him a trophy six times now. Sunday just proved the more Tiger changes, the more things stay the same.


If you can’t see that, you are totally in the dark.



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