DORAL, Fla. – Tiger Woods shot 71 Sunday to win the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship by two shots over Steve Stricker. Here are 5 Things you need to know from Woods’ victory.
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1. ON TOP OF THE WORLD: This was Tiger Woods’ first WGC victory since 2009. He’s now won five times in his past 22 events that offer Official World Golf Ranking points. The previous four were all in regular PGA Tour events, though, making this his biggest victory since his return from his personal scandal. This was his second win in five worldwide starts in 2013.
“I felt that towards the end of last year that I was heading that direction where things were becoming better,” Woods said. “I feel like my game’s becoming more efficient, and it’s more consistent day-in and day-out.”
Woods started the day with a four-shot lead after shooting the low score in each of the first three rounds. He was five ahead with nine holes remaining, but bogeys at Nos. 16 and 18 cut his winning margin to two shots. Both victories this year had the potential to be routes, but bogeys on the closing holes brought him closer to the field.
His bogeys over the final holes Sunday were the result of conservative options he could afford to take because of his large lead. He opted for iron off the tee at the short par-4 16th, but hit it against the lip of a bunker left of the fairway. His bogey at the final hole came after he pitched out of the rough instead of trying to hit his second shot on the green. Those were his only bogeys Sunday. He also made birdies on Nos. 2, 4 and 10.
Woods had a career-best 100 putts this week after receiving a putting lesson from Steve Stricker earlier in the week. “I was able to flush the ball again,” Woods said. “That helps, especially when you’re putting on grainy greens.”
Woods also was seventh in greens in regulation, hitting 50 of 72.
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2. PART-TIME PLAYER: Beware the part-time golfer. Steve Stricker’s limited schedule seems to be paying off. His worst finish is fifth in three starts this year, including runners-up at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Cadillac Championship. Stricker, who started the final round five shots behind Woods, shot 68 Sunday. Sergio Garcia (69) was the only other player in the final nine groups to break 70; Eleven of those 18 players failed to break par.
“It’s been a good start to the year,” Stricker said. “I’ve done a lot of nice things so far. … There were some things I could have done better. I didn’t drive it the greatest. Some wedge shots that I normally do very well, I didn’t do as well at. I have some work to do.”
Stricker’s biggest contribution this week may have been his putting lesson to Tiger Woods, though. “I was hitting the ball and it was rolling early,” Woods said. “I think that’s why I made so many putts, especially the ones that were uphill in the grain.”
?Stricker, who had his wife, Nicki, on the bag, will next play at the Houston Open and Masters. He’s loyal to Houston because of a sponsor exemption extended to him during his struggles in 2006. He finished third there, a result he said was key to his resurgence from a prolonged slump.
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3. TOUGH TO BEAT: Graeme McDowell was hoping for a repeat of the 2010 Chevron World Challenge, where McDowell beat Woods after overcoming a four-shot deficit to start the final round. McDowell, who played in the final group at Doral, faced the same deficit Sunday.
McDowell gained a shot on Woods on the first hole, but couldn’t get much closer. That birdie at No. 1 got McDowell within three shots. He hit his approach shot to the next hole to 7 feet, but Woods holed an 18-foot putt to match McDowell’s birdie. McDowell had two bogeys and no birdies over his next nine holes. He reached 15 under after a chip-in at No. 13 and then birdied No. 17. An approach shot that settled in rocks at No. 18 resulted in double-bogey. McDowell, who closed with 72 blamed his putter.
“My stroke got a little tentative the last couple days … because of the speed of the greens,” McDowell said. “The putter let me down the last couple days, but that’s been a part of my game that’s been extremely strong the last couple weeks.”
This was McDowell’s third consecutive top-10. He finished fifth at the Match Play and ninth at the Honda.
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4. GOOD SIGN: It was good enough to earn Donald Trump’s approval. Rory McIlroy received a thumbs-up and congratulations from Doral’s owner after dissecting his final-round 65 for the press.
McIlroy jumped 22 spots into eighth place after making five birdies, an eagle and no bogeys Sunday at Doral. The score gave McIlroy reason for optimism as he entered a two-week break before his next start at the Shell Houston Open. Then it’s on to Augusta.
“To play a round out there today with the conditions the way they are was very pleasing,” McIlroy said. “It was pleasing to see some of the shots I hit out there and be able to convert some of them on the greens, too. It was a good score out there, and a lot of positive signs going into the next few weeks.
McIlroy said he still is at the point where he has to think through his swing, instead of playing instinctively. He said he had a revelation on the range after his first-round 73. He broke par in his final three rounds, shooting 69-71-65.
“A day like today felt like a long way away, if I’m honest,” McIlroy said. “That’s been one of my problems: I always think when I’m playing bad that it’s further away than it is.”
McIlroy started Sunday with an eagle at the par-5 first after hitting his 7-iron second shot to 18 feet. He also birdied the par-4 fifth hole to make the turn in 3-under 33. He birdied four holes on the back nine – Nos. 10, 11, 16 and 17. McIlroy hit 10 of 14 fairways Sunday and 15 greens, his best figures of the week.
“I’m looking forward to just getting back and working on my game a bit more,” McIlroy said. “I’m not secluding myself, but (getting) away from this whole thing … to work on my game in a bit more peace and quiet.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Adam Scott shot Sunday’s low round, a 64, to move from 19th to third. He made eight birdies and no bogeys. “I’m very comfortable with where everything’s at,” Scott said. “I like what I’m seeing. I think my game really progressed every day this week and showed in the scores.” Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell also tied for third. … Charl Schwartzel was on pace for a third top-5 at this event in the past four years, but a final-round 75 dropped him to 16th. … Defending champion Justin Rose shot a final-round 68 to finish eighth. … Michael Thompson, who won last week’s Honda Classic, finished eighth to collect consecutive top-10s for the first time in his career. Thompson had five top-10s in 60 career starts before his Honda victory. He earned $2,387,183 in his first 60 PGA Tour starts. He’s won more than half that, $1,243,750, in his past two starts.