Tiger roars to victory at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods claimed his first PGA Tour win since 2009 thanks to a five-shot victory over Graeme McDowell in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida.

Playing his final warm-up for next month’s Masters, the impressiveWoods carded a final round two-under 70 to secure the 98th victory of his pro career and his seventh title at Bay Hill.

In what turned into a final round duel with playing partner McDowell, Woods never looked like relinquishing the one-shot lead he held overnight despite the Ulsterman doing his best to put Tiger under pressure.

And with McDowell running out of steam, Tiger stayed strong to give himself the perfect send off for Augusta and move up to sixth in the latest world rankings.

After an opening par, Woods dropped a shot by three-putting the short second before the fireworks started. McDowell, who had racked up a double bogey at the first, made a 45-footer from the fringe of the third and then holed from over 50 feet for eagle at the long sixth.

He still walked off that green two behind, though, Woods having three birdies in four holes.

That became four in six with a superb approach to two feet on the difficult eighth, then McDowell missed a four-foot par putt to turn in 36 against the 33 of Woods.

The Ulsterman’s putter came good again from 23 feet at the 11th, but when he took six on the long next – off much the better drive – he was four behind once more and now with just six holes remaining.

Both bogeyed the short 14th, Woods made a great par save from 12 feet at the 15th and McDowell missed a six-foot birdie chance on the par-five 16th.

When he followed that by three-putting for bogey it was all over unless Woods did what Jeff Overton did earlier by dumping three balls in the water on the last.

Tiger was playing far too well for that to happen and a solid par was enough to see him to a hugely impressive win.

“It feels really good. It’s been a lot of hard work. So thankful for a lot of people helping me along the way,” said Woods, who shot all four rounds under par for the first time since the 2010 Masters.

Talking about Augusta, he added: “I am excited, there’s no doubt.

“It’s always fun to play, I’m looking forward to using the momentum I’ve built here. The things I’ve done to my game are coming together at the right time.”

Tiger’s 13-under total was five better than McDowell in second while England’s Ian Poulter finished two shots back in solo third.

Ernie Els started the day believing he would need to finish third on his own to make it to Augusta.

He did occupy that position at one point although it emerged that Jim Furyk’s 11th place finish meant third wouldn’t have been good enough anyway.

The South African, who will now have to win in Houston next week or hope for an invite from The Masters committee, eventually finished tied fourth on five-under with Americans Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Bud Cauley, Kevin Na, Johnson Wagner and England’s Brian Davis.

Tournament host Arnold Palmer was not on the green for the closing ceremony with officials saying he felt “under the weather”.