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Tiger Woods became the first two- time winner on the U.S. PGA Tour this season after a putting tip from title rival Steve Stricker helped him win the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship.
Woods held at least a share of the lead all four days in finishing with a four-round total of 19-under-par 269, two shots better than Stricker at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami, Florida. Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott tied for third at 14-under par.
This is the first time Woods has won two PGA Tour events in a season prior to golf’s Masters Tournament since 2008, when he claimed the last of his 14 major championships at the U.S. Open. He’s scheduled to play one more event -- the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 21-24 in Orlando -- ahead of the Masters. The first major of the year, the Masters is held April 11-14 at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
“That’s how I know I can play,” Woods, 37, said after shooting a 1-under 71 yesterday. “To be able to bring it out a couple times so far this year, and then able to close and get the wins on top of that, that’s nice. Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good.”
Woods’s win yesterday was his 17th in a World Golf Championships event and his first since the 2009 Bridgestone Invitational. The WGC Cadillac Championship is the fourth tournament he’s won seven times and pushes his career PGA Tour win total to 76, six behind Sam Snead for the most all-time.
The latest victory came with some aid from the runner-up, as Stricker helped Woods with his alignment on the putting greens a day before the tournament began. Woods ended the week with a career-low 100 putts, improving on his previous best of 101 at the 2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“We tend to help each other out with our putting,” Woods said. “I know what he looks like when he putts his best and vice versa. Once he put me in there where I felt comfortable, I said, ‘Well, this is not too foreign. This is what I was a month or so ago.’ I started rolling it and it felt really, really good. I basically carried it through the entire week.”
Woods, the No. 2-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, has now won five tournaments in his past 19 PGA Tour starts. He’s won twice in four starts in the U.S. this year.
“He just seems in a better place mentally,” Stricker said of Woods. “He seems to be having fun. Seems to have a lot of confidence in himself and his game.”
Woods opened the tournament with a 6-under 66, making nine first-round birdies to grab a share of the lead. He followed with rounds of 65 and 67 to take a four-shot advantage over McDowell into yesterday’s final round.
Woods birdied two of his first four holes yesterday and then added his 27th of the tournament at the 10th hole, one off his record of 28 birdies at the 2007 Tour Championship and the 2006 Buick Open. He dropped two shots with a pair of bogeys over the final eight holes, including one on the 18th.
Woods has now won 51 of 55 times in which he’s had at least a share of the lead entering the final round.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who started with a first-round 73, closed with a 7-under 65 to finish tied for eighth place at 10 under. He was one stroke over par through his first 46 holes and played the final 26 in 11 under.
Also yesterday, Scott Brown recorded his first PGA Tour win at the Puerto Rico Open. Brown, 29, birdied the final hole to finish one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth and Fabian Gomez, who held a one-stroke advantage before bogeying the final hole.
The PGA Tour now moves to Palm Harbor, Florida, for the $5.5 million Tampa Bay Championship at the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course from March 14-17. The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played the following week at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, followed by the Shell Houston Open, which is the last PGA Tour event before the Masters.
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