Tiger Woods got his hat handed to him Sunday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Thing is, he didn't lose.
Woods stretched his PGA Tour winning streak to five, sinking a 25-foot birdie putt for a one-stroke victory at Bay Hill. Backing away as he watched his winning putt break toward the cup, the world No. 1-ranked player ripped the cap off his head and spiked it to the ground in celebration after ball dropped into the hole.
After Woods' enthusiastic reaction — one that will likely move to the front of his highlight reel that was previously dominated by fist pumps — caddie Steve Williams eventually delivered his boss' hat back to him.
"When Stevie handed me my hat, I was like, 'How in the hell did he get my hat?' Woods said at his post-tournament press conference, drawing laughter from media members. "Evidently, it came off. I don't know how it came off, but it came off.
"I need to see the highlights. I was so into the moment of the putt going in and winning the golf tournament."
Heading to the tricky 18th hole, Woods needed a par to force a playoff with clubhouse leader Bart Bryant. After a near-perfect tee shot, he hit a well-struck 5-iron into the wind from 164 yards that came to rest 25 feet from the hole, giving Woods a similar look to the putt he beat Phil Mickelson with on the 72nd hole of the 2001 Palmer Invitational.
"I kept telling myself, 'I've done this before,'" said Woods, who hadn't made a putt longer than 19 feet in the tournament. "I hit the putt down there and it took forever to start breaking and for the grain to start taking it. But once it started taking it, it went straight right and went in the hole."
Woods' dramatic birdie putt apparently didn't come as a surprise to Palmer. The golfing great was standing on a nearby ridge, telling those around him that he thought Woods would indeed make the putt that would tie Ben Hogan for third all-time with 64 career PGA Tour victories.
"Somehow you just get a good feeling sometimes and he, being a player, knows better than anybody," Woods said. "Sometimes you can see it on a person whether they are going to make it or miss it."
Bryant, who was watching in the scoring trailer, didn't seem a bit surprised. TV cameras showed him chuckling to himself after Woods sank the winning putt.
"It didn't surprise me one bit," Bryant told reporters. "You know, you've still got to chuckle, even though you're not surprised. Anything he does anymore doesn't surprise me."
Woods, who was five strokes off the pace heading into the weekend, shot his second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66 to finish at 10-under 270 and claim his fifth career title in the event. After winning at Bay Hill four consecutive times from 2000-2003, Woods had failed to finish higher than 20th in the event for the past four years.
In a five-way tie for the lead heading into the final round, Woods got to 9 under with three birdies on the front nine before making a three-putt bogey at No. 10. He responded with back-to-back pars, birdied No. 13 and then carded four consecutive pars prior to the birdie at No. 18 to give him the $1.04 million first-place check.
Woods said he was in awe of tying the win total of a legend like Hogan, who won 64 times during his 21-year career. Woods, who turned pro in 1996, is now chasing only Jack Nicklaus (73 career victories) and Sam Snead (82).
"Tying Mr. Hogan, when I first started my career, there's no way I could ever dreamt I would be here right now," Woods said. "Hopefully if I had a great career and it panned out over a number of years, I might get to that number, but certainly not this quick."
Woods said not too many of his victories have felt better than this one.
"It's why you work all those tireless hours," Woods said. "It's why you get up at 0-dong-30 and log your miles, bust your tail in the gym — the reason why is to be in that position right there to fail or succeed.
"Trust me, that's the rush, to be in that position."
March 17, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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