Tiger Woods began his march to the Masters in style with a win in the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Florida today
Woods beat Davis Love III by four strokes, matching his largest margin of victory in a PGA Tour event since his 12-stroke romp at Augusta National three years ago.
With masterful control of his entire game, Woods led by at least two strokes throughout the final round. He closed with a 2-under 70 for his third victory this year in just six tournaments.
Woods, who finished at 270, won $540,000 to bring his season total to more than $2.5 million. Only he and David Duval won more money all of last year.
It was the 13th consecutive time on tour, and 15th time around the world, that Woods had at least a share of the 54-hole lead and went on to win. It also was the third straight time since November he faced Love and experienced little pressure.
Of course, Woods had a lot to do with that.
"I had the lead," he said. "I figured I could put pressure on him by hitting a lot of fairways and greens. I feel pretty good about my short game right now."
Love started the day two strokes behind and never got any closer. He birdied the 18th hole for a 2-under 72 and finished second in Arnold Palmer's tournament for the third time.
"I made too many mistakes," Love said. "You're not going to beat Tiger playing like that."
Woods has been pointing to the Masters since the season began, but each tournament draws him that much closer. And each round only sends a stronger message that he will be the man to beat.
Woods was 12-under on the par 5s this week and rarely put himself in serious trouble. Whether a new winning streak is about to begin remains to be seen, but Woods always seems to give himself a chance.
He now has gone an entire year without finishing worse than 18th in a stroke-play tournament, and his victory at Bay Hill was his 10th in his last 16 tour events.
Love, meanwhile, will have to go back to the drawing board.
He has never beaten Woods when he has had a chance, an 0-5 record that dates to the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational, Woods first victory as a professional. The last two losses, both blowouts, came in match play, which is essentially what the final round was all about.
Sunday was one of those moments, a day bustling with excitement. Bay Hill sold more tickets than ever before, the gallery forming a massive aisle to the first tee and standing four deep all the way down the 441-yard first hole.
And Love appeared to get caught up in it.
He bogeyed from the front bunker on No 2, dropped another shot on No 3 when his approach bounded left against the rocks guarding the water, and yet another when he failed to birdie the 530-yard fourth hole and Woods two-putted for birdie from 40 feet.
Suddenly, Woods' lead was five and Love was looking lost.
Four down at the turn, Love slowly crept back into a view with a 6-foot birdie on No 10 and a 10-foot putt on the 11th that shaved the lead in half and gave him hope that he could pull off the kind of comeback that Woods has patented.
But Love couldn't sustain the momentum. His approach on the par-5 12th found the bunker and he failed to get up-and-down to match Woods' birdie.
The end got messy. Love missed a 2-foot par putt that rimmed around the cup, and he chunked a wedge from the fairway that led a bogey on the next hole, giving Woods plenty of breathing room.
The way Woods is playing, he didn't need much.
Leading Final scores from the $3 million Bay Hill Invitational, played on the 7,239-yard, par-72 Bay Hill Golf course in Orlando, Florida:
Tiger Woods 69-64-67-70-270 Davis Love III 72-67-63-72-274 Skip Kendall 70-67-71-67-275 Loren Roberts 71-69-70-67-277 Neal Lancaster 70-68-69-70-277 Stewart Cink 71-67-70-70-278 Jay Williamson 72-70-69-68-279 Mike Weir 70-64-72-73-279 Woody Austin 71-67-71-71-280 Brandel Chamblee 76-68-68-69-281 Paul Goydos 69-69-72-71-281 Tim Herron 72-71-67-71-281 Billy Mayfair 71-69-69-72-281 Ernie Els 72-68-74-68-282 Tom Purtzer 75-67-69-71-282 Jonathan Kaye 69-69-72-72-282 Scott Hoch 72-71-67-72-282 Bernhard Langer 75-69-71-68-283 Shigeki Maruyama 72-70-71-70-283 David Toms 69-69-72-73-283 Steve Flesch 70-65-74-74-283 Mark O'Meara 70-72-73-69-284 Kirk Triplett 74-69-72-69-284 Tom Pernice Jr 71-68-73-72-284 Lee Westwood 72-68-71-73-284 Tom Lehman 72-71-68-73-284 Billy Andrade 73-68-69-74-284 Steve Lowery 70-70-69-75-284 Vijay Singh 68-73-73-71-285 Hal Sutton 71-71-71-72-285 J.L. Lewis 72-69-71-73-285 Duffy Waldorf 68-72-72-73-285 Robert Allenby 71-71-70-73-285 Colin Montgomerie 72-71-69-73-285 Dennis Paulson 73-71-68-73-285 Dudley Hart 69-71-71-74-285 Olin Browne 74-67-68-76-285
Sergio Garcia 75-68-70-74-287 Darren Clarke 72-68-72-75-287 Corey Pavin 72-70-71-75-288 Mark Calcavecchia 73-69-69-77-288 Phil Mickelson 70-67-73-78-288 Jean Van De Velde 72-67-71-81-291 Stuart Appleby 70-72-76-74-292 Steve Pate 70-74-72-76-292 John Daly 72-72-75-87-306Reuse content