Keeping Score

Tiger Woods Ends Title Drought — Just In Time for Augusta

Well, that took longer than anyone expected.

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Tiger Woods plays a shot on the 15th hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 24, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

Well, that took longer than anyone expected.

Tiger Woods won his first PGA Tournament event in 30 months on Sunday, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, as he triumphed by five-shots over Graeme McDowell. After Woods returned from the 2009 sex scandal that cost him his marriage and millions in endorsements, few figured it would take him this long to clinch a PGA victory. But now that he has one in the books, it’s time to revert to old habits. We can expect Woods to start piling up majors again, starting with this year’s Masters, which tees off on April 5, for which he’s already been installed as the favorite in the eyes of the bookmakers.

It might seem foolish to call the 18th-ranked player in the world – that was Tiger’s standing going into Sunday – the favorite at Augusta. But consider: even in his post-scandal fog, Woods has played well at the season’s first major (and also has four green jackets). In each of the last two years, Woods finished fourth at the Masters. Now that his game seems to be improving so much, why shouldn’t we expect an Augusta ascendance? “He’s going to be a force at Augusta,” said fellow tour pro Ian Poulter.

(MORE: Tiger Woods Vs. Caddie Steve Williams: The Top 10 OF Everything Of 2011)

For Woods, the timing of this win is also fortuitous: this week marks the release of The Big Miss, a candid new book written by Woods’ old swing coach, Hank Haney. The book has clearly irked Tiger, and contains some juicy revelations: for example, Haney thinks that Woods’ obsession with the Navy SEALS went too far. He suspects that Woods damaged his ACL, and threatened his run at Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, in SEAL training exercises; also, Haney adds to Woods’ reputation as a cheapskate, names Woods’ least favorite players – Vijay Singh and Poulter among them – and says that Woods’ ex-wife, Elin, wanted Tiger to take two years off from golf in the wake of the sex scandal.

But now, the discussion about Tiger’s game might drown out this distraction. Wow, we’re actually talking Tiger’s on-course success. When’s the last time anyone did that?

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