Sunday, March 16, 2008

Unstoppable Tiger Wins Arnold Palmer Invitational

Tiger Woods etched another chapter in an astonishing career with a dramatic victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando on Sunday.

The world No.1 curled in a sharply-breaking eight-metre birdie putt at the final hole, his ball trickling into the middle of the cup for a one-stroke victory over dogged fellow American Bart Bryant at Bay Hill.

Woods carded a 66 to finish at 10-under-par 270, posting his fifth successive victory on the US PGA Tour, while he has also won the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic during his six-month unbeaten stretch.

His fifth Arnold Palmer Invitational title made him the first player in US PGA Tour history to win four tournaments at least five times.

He posted his 63rd career win on the US Tour, equal third on the all-time list with Ben Hogan, trailing only Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus.

"It's amazing to be ranked in that company," said Woods, whose main priority on what turned out to be his winning putt was to leave it close to the hole on the bumpy green.

"I just wanted to get the speed right, and it went in. It took forever for it to start breaking, but once the grain started taking it, it went straight right.

"I was just so into the moment. I told myself I've done this before, there's no reason I can't do it again."

The vanquished Bryant said it was probably difficult for the average sports fan to appreciate Woods' dominance over the past six months.

"I think true golf fans who understand the game understand the magnitude of it. I think the golf public in general doesn't get it, to be honest with you. Because what he's doing right now, I mean, you can't even hardly fathom it.

"It's just incredible. What he did today is another evidence of this weird zone he's in, and he's been in it like his whole life. I don't know how to explain it."

Woods, who started the final round in a five-way tie for the lead, wasted little time stamping his authority, a birdie at the par-three second taking him one-stroke clear.

He added two more birdies on the front nine to turn for home in front, only to make an uncharacteristic mess of the par-four 10th, where he missed a tiny putt from inside one metre for a momentum-killing bogey.

He subsequently birdied the par-four 13th from four metres, but when Bryant, playing ahead, stiffed his approach shot at the 15th, they were tied again.

And that's how it remained until the 18th.

After Bryant made a tap-in par, the stage was set for Woods to perform another miracle for the large gallery and millions watching on television around the world.

After playing a safe five-iron approach shot to avoid the water, he stood over the putt, and remembered it was on a similar line to the one he made to beat Phil Mickelson in 2001.

He read the break perfectly, starting his ball left of the hole and watching gravity carry it unerringly to the cup.

Had it been anyone else, you might be tempted to suggest there was an element of luck involved, but Woods has made a career out of such heroics.

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