Orlando: Tiger Woods's renewed success has him back on top of the world rankings but questions thrown at him after Monday's triumph at Bay Hill were about something he has not done for a long time, win the Masters. While all signs point to Woods being close to his best after years of struggling with injuries, personal strife and a tedious swing overhaul, his comeback will not be complete in many minds, including his own, until he snaps a drought in the majors that dates back to the 2008 U.S. Open.
Woods's 77th PGA Tour victory moved him within five of Sam Snead's career record but it is another mark, Jack Nicklaus's 18 majors, that has been the 37-year-old American's 'Holy Grail' since he burst onto the professional golf scene. With 14 major titles on his resume, Woods will get a chance to add to his total and confirm his comeback is complete at next month's Masters at Augusta National, where he has four wins but none since 2005.
Asked what Monday's Arnold Palmer Invitational victory at Bay Hill, his final competitive tune-up before Augusta, meant to him Woods had a brief answer: "more media interviews." Woods has collected three wins in five starts this season, the earliest he has captured three titles in a season since 2008, making him the clear favourite going into the Masters. But success in his final Masters tune-up has never translated into victory at the year's first major. Three-times Woods has won his final event before the Masters (2000, 2003, 2008) and each time failed to reach the Augusta winner's circle.
Still, few will be betting against Woods slipping into a fifth green jacket next month. "I enjoy competing, I enjoy winning golf tournaments and especially major championships," said Woods. "To have, at one point in my career, had all four of them on my coffee table in a row was a pretty neat feeling."
At a point in most careers where most athlete's best years are behind them, Woods has set about redefining the parameters of his sport, insisting that his best is yet to come. Looking every bit his familiar dominating self so far this season, Woods had a warning for his fellow golfers, explaining that his overhaul was not yet quite complete.
"I'm getting there. I'm getting there," assured Woods. "I'm very pleased that some of the shots that I struggled with last year are now strengths. One of the things that we need to continue to work on is getting it more refined because my good ones are really good. Just making sure the bad ones aren't that bad."