Tiger Woods recaptures his No 1 spot from Rory McIlroy with victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Two weeks before the Masters and Woods is on course to win his first major since 2008

Is he back? You bet, roared the galleries in Florida, who watched Tiger Woods add the Arnold Palmer Invitational tonight to the WGC-Cadillac Championship he won two weeks ago. Appropriately enough for a regal golfer, Woods received the Bay Hill trophy from the King, Arnold Palmer himself. The coronation confirmed Woods as the world’s No 1 golfer for the first time since October 2010.

The usurped Rory McIlroy has a chance to reclaim the honour at the Shell Houston Open this week. Great. That will only fire the frenzy before the Masters in a fortnight.

But don’t bother arguing the case for McIlroy, or anyone else at Augusta for that matter. There is little in sport to rival the comeback, the climb off the deck. Woods has not won a major since 2008. He has been through all sorts of personal trauma, physical and mental, since claiming his 14th major championship, the US Open at Torrey Pines, on one leg. Would he ever return to the dominant force he was at his peak? The question has rattled around the game since the nadir of Thanksgiving in 2009.

Three wins in five events by the end of March suggest he is right where he needs to be to resume the assault on the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus. This victory was his eighth in this event, equalling the record of Sam Snead for the number of successes at one PGA Tour tournament. “It is very significant,” Palmer said. “I don’t see anybody following that for a long time. I had the opportunity to win an event five times and know how hard that was. To beat eight would be a miracle.”

Johnny Miller was more emphatic when asked to assess the threat of Woods in this phase of his career. “It’s more than here. It’s doubled up, especially with McIlroy not doing anything.” Woods could even afford a bogey at the last and still win by two from Justin Rose. Both completed their final rounds in two under par. 

Of his return to No 1, Woods said: “It’s a by-product of perseverance and patience. I’ve won some tournaments in the last couple of years, as a consequence I’ve moved up. I’m pleased with the way I’m playing.” Though Orlando was dripping in hyperbole, chillingly, Woods contributed none of it. It was the matter-of-fact way he dispatched all attempts to talk him up that should really unnerve his rivals.

When asked what this meant for his prospects at the Masters, he presented the full face of the bat: “It’s the next event I play.” On technical matters he was only marginally more revealing: “It’s been a few years since I felt this good. It has been years since I have hit the ball this consistently week in, week out. I’ve been hitting it pure and made my share of putts. Stricks [Steve Stricker] helped me out at Doral and I have managed to carry that on.”

Woods broke his post-2009 duck at this event last year. Then a hospitalised Palmer was unable to present the trophy. His smiling, jaunty presence by the 18th green yesterday conferred upon events a proper sense of majesty. “He’s a living legend,” said Woods. “When you look at the 18th green and realise what they mean to the game, it is great to have these guys there.”

Woods hit fewer than 60 per cent of fairways in his final round – delayed from Sunday by storms – but ranked No 1 in strokes gained on the greens. For the most part yesterday Rickie Fowler was in his face, holing a 38-footer at the 12th to close to within two strokes of the lead. What did Woods do? He followed him in from 27ft, that’s what, raising the putter in a stiff-armed salute. Fowler came back at him again, horseshoeing in for birdie at the 14th. Woods could do no better than par, and at the 16th found a bunker off the tee with Fowler in the middle of the fairway.

Could this be the fulcrum on which providence tipped in Fowler’s favour? The splash as his ball rolled back off the slope protecting the front of the green accounted for that romantic idea. A second ball into the drink was the prelude to an eight. Woods found the green and two-putted for his birdie. From there it was a procession straight into the arms of Arnie.

Woods will not be seen in competition before the Masters. After Houston, McIlroy heads to Haiti to renew his acquaintance with victims of the  2010 earthquake, whom he visited in 2011 before going on  to Congressional to win the US Open by eight shots. Woods was not in the field that week. Depending on outcomes this week, perhaps it would be more fitting were Woods and McIlroy issued with boxing gloves at Augusta.

Suggested Topics
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam