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March 26, 2013

Tiger wins again, returns to the top

ORLANDO, Fla. — The moment was vintage Tiger Woods, and so was his reaction.

Seconds after Rickie Fowler made a 40-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole to pull within two shots of the lead, Woods posed over his 25-foot birdie putt until he swept the putter upward in his left hand and marched toward the cup as it dropped for a birdie.

Fowler, standing on the edge of the green, turned with a slight smile as if to say, “What else can I do?”

Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Monday and returned to No. 1 in the world for the first time since October 2010, the longest spell of his career. After all that time, after so much turmoil with his personal life and his health, Woods looks as good as ever.

Maybe better.

“It’s a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments,” Woods said.

He essentially wrapped up his eighth title at Bay Hill with an 8-iron out of a fairway bunker on the par-5 16th that easily cleared the water and landed safely on the green for a two-putt birdie. Woods dangled his tongue out of his mouth as the ball was in the air, another sign of his swagger.

Just like his other two wins this year, Woods never let anyone get closer than two shots in the final round. With a conservative bogey he could afford on the final hole, he closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot win over Justin Rose.

Woods walked off the 18th green waving his putter over his head — truly a magic wand at Bay Hill — to acknowledge the fans who have seen this act before. His eighth win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational tied a PGA Tour record that had not been touched in 48 years.

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