ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tiger Woods finally brought the buzz back to the very thing that made him famous -- winning. Two weeks after another injury scare, Woods looked dominant as ever Sunday in that 'red shirt on Sunday' to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
It was his first PGA Tour victory since a sex scandal at the end of 2009 led to one of the greatest downfalls in sports. And with the Masters only two weeks away, Woods looks more capable than ever of resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus in the majors.
Woods closed with a 2-under 70 for a five-shot win over Graeme McDowell.
The question two weeks ago was when he could play again because of a left Achilles tendon strain. Now, it's whether he can get back to being the player who once ruled golf.
Woods refused to acknowledge that this was his first PGA Tour since Sept. 13, 2009, at the BMW Championship. He counts the unofficial Chevron World Challenge last December. Even so, this was significant -- a full tour event against a strong field, and a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine.
The final hole was a mere formality, and Woods tapped his putter on the ground waiting for his turn, knowing that 30 months without a win on the PGA Tour was about to end. He walked off the green with his arm extended, waving his cap to a raucous gallery.
"It does feel good. It feels really good," Woods said before signing his card. "It's been a lot of hard work."
The only thing missing was the host himself. Palmer's blood pressure increased during the final round from new medications, and he was taken to the hospital about 15 minutes before the tournament ended as a precaution. Alaistair Johnston, vice chairman at IMG and his longtime business manager, said Palmer would be kept overnight. "Nobody is overly concerned," he said.
Woods goes to No. 6 in the world, returning to the top 10 for the first time since May 22.
He finished at 13-under-par 275 for his 72nd PGA Tour win, one short of Nicklaus for second place on the career list. But that's not the record Woods wants. He has 14 majors, four short of the Nicklaus standard. He'll try to end a four-year majors drought at the Masters, which starts April 5.
"I am excited, no doubt," Woods said. "I'm looking forward to the momentum I've built here."
"He's going to be a force at Augusta," said Ian Poulter, who shot 74 and finished third.
It was the first time Woods had all four rounds under par since he returned from his personal crisis at the 2010 Masters.
"I think he really just kind of nailed home his comeback," said McDowell, who shot 74. "Great to have a front-row seat watching maybe the greatest of all time doing what he does best -- winning golf tournaments."
"He was a man on a mission today," caddie Joe LaCava said. "He was pretty jacked up. He was out there to prove himself."
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