chairman Don Oehlrich (right) presenting Tiger Woods with the jacket for
winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday. The win snapped a
30-month long title drought on the PGA Tour and set up the American
nicely for the upcoming Masters.
ORLANDO: Now that Tiger Woods has ended his
30-month victory drought on the United States PGA Tour, the question
turns to whether the former world No. 1 golfer can win again where it
really counts - in a Major, starting with the Masters.
If it seems a little dismissive
of his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday to
immediately turn the focus to the April 5-8 Masters, well, that is a
little bit how he himself reacted on Sunday.
Asked where his 72nd PGA Tour victory ranked,
he said: 'It's not like winning a Major championship or anything, but it
certainly feels really good.'
Woods has long judged other
players by whether or not they have won a Major. And, with 14 Majors to
his name, he knows all about what it takes to succeed in the ultimate
test for a golfer.
But now the American, who has not triumphed at one of golf's four Majors since the 2008 US Open, has to prove it all again.
The win - and the manner of the five-shot victory - at Bay Hill was an important step.
He drove straight, found greens and putted solidly to post four under-par rounds in the same event since the 2010 Masters.
He was first in greens in regulation, hitting
57 of 72 putting surfaces, 29th in fairways hit, sixth in driving
distance and fourth in strokes-gained putting.
He also dissected the par-fives, playing them in 12 under - a hallmark during his dominance in 2000 and 2006.
But the win needs to be put in context.
The tournament featured none of last week's
top six-ranked players and came on very friendly terrain - it was Woods'
seventh win at a venue which for years was practically a home course
He also feels at home at Augusta National,
where he is a four-time winner, but the imposing course in Georgia poses
many more challenges than Bay Hill.
While he is now comfortable with, and in
control of, the new swing introduced by coach Sean Foley, his putting
remains the part of his game that he has yet to get back to the high
standards of his past.
And no other course tests a man's skills on
the green more than Augusta National - with its complex slopes, tricky
reads and an unforgiving speed.
'I understand how to play Augusta National, and it's just a matter of executing the game plan,' Woods said after his victory.
'I still need some work, and it's going to be good to get a week off and work on a few things.
'I enjoyed the progression we made this
week... I was able to hit some really good shots the last two days, and
that's a very good sign going into Augusta.'
Presuming the new swing, which some observers
now believe to be more reliable than the one used in his prime, holds
firm, then putting will be the key to whether or not Woods, the
bookmakers' favourite, can claim a fifth victory at the Masters.
'He's always a force to be reckoned with when
he's not playing his best golf, and obviously he's playing a lot of good
golf right now,' said England's Ian Poulter.
'He's got a lot of his game back and, when he
starts rolling putts in, he's dangerous. So, he's going to be a force
for everybody at Augusta.'
Those at Augusta will include English world
No. 1 Luke Donald, still seeking his first Major win; No. 2 Rory
McIlroy, looking for a second Major win, and three-time Masters winner
It is perfectly set up for a memorable
tournament and one where we should learn a little more about whether
Woods really is getting back to his very best.