REWIND: Seventh heaven for Woods

10/3/2013 1:14:34 PM
Tiger Woods with the Gene Sarazen Trophy  (Getty Images)
Tiger Woods with the Gene Sarazen Trophy (Getty Images)
On a day when World Number One Rory McIlroy produced comfortably his best golf of 2013, nearest challenger Tiger Woods edged closer to the summit of the rankings by scooping a seventh WGC - Cadillac Championship title.

McIlroy and Woods have been first and second respectively for a little while now, but never had the rivalry that was expected from the moment the former came on to the scene a few years ago.

That is largely due to the fact that McIlroy’s ascent has coincided with a downturn for Woods, who - despite being very much on an upward trajectory over the last 18 months - has never quite reached the standards he managed during his years of dominance.

However, the 14 time Major Champion looked back to his best this week in registering his most significant career victory since winning the Bridgestone Invitational in 2009.

The 37 year old showed why he is regarded as the greatest front-runner of all time today, delivering a controlled 71 to end 19 under par - two shots ahead of Steve Stricker.

The upshot was him sealing a 17th WGC crown - and second at Trump Doral - which is quite a feat given the second most prolific player in these events, Geoff Ogilvy, has just three wins.

“It feels good, especially to play that well this entire week, on  a difficult set-up,” he said. “I feel like my game's becoming more efficient, and it's more consistent day in and day out, and I'm very pleased with the progress I've made.”

Woods’ emotions following this week represent a stark contrast to last year, when he had to withdraw early from the competition with an Achilles injury.

“It’s nice to be healthy,” he added. “I was struggling there for a while, and it was nice to recover, and last year I won the very next event at Bay Hill.  

“I pushed myself through some interesting little injuries and knick-knack things over the years, and sometimes it's been good and sometimes it's been bad.

“Last year was a case where it was the right thing to do and it was a smart decision and consequently I was able to play the rest of the year.”

Woods’ excellence meant the chasing pack were merely fighting for the best possible finish.

Yet that did not stop some exceptional golf being played, particularly by Australian Adam Scott - who finished tied third on the back of an eight under par 64, the week’s best round.

He was three shots adrift of Stricker, but level with Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson.

McDowell, who started his day by shortening Woods’ lead to three strokes with a birdie, could not mount the challenge he hoped, yet completed an exceptional tournament with a 72.

He said: “All in all, I'm ecstatic the way I'm playing. The way I drove it this week, my iron play, just everything, really.

“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, so no complaints.”

Spaniard Garcia looked outstanding once again in compiling three under par round - highlighted by a glorious holed bunker shot on 15 - and may well rue his 72 on the second day, during which conditions were at their best.

Indeed, scores of 66, 67 and 69 in his other three efforts meant a better performance would have given him a real chance of challenging Woods - something no one was quite able to manage.

“It was a good week,” he said. “Obviously, the second round kind of put me a little bit behind the eight-ball. The other three rounds were pretty good.”

Focus for Garcia now turns to the Masters Tournament in a month’s time.

“I am going to play the next two weeks and then have a couple of weeks off and hopefully be ready for it,” he added. “It's obviously the first Major of the year; we always don't know what to expect but hopefully my game will be on form there and I'll be able to play well.”

On the day, it was Woods' efforts, combined with the performance of McIlroy - back to form just a month before the Masters - that left fans around the world salivating at the prospect of what promises to be a thrilling year.

McIlroy looked in stupendous form; having eagled the first, he picked up birdies on five, ten, 11, 16 and 17 in a thrilling 65.

He subsequently finished ten under overall, his efforts representing a huge improvement on last week’s disappointment at the Honda Classic, when the 23 year old left the course midway through the second round.

His display was the outstanding one in the early part of the day, after which Woods took centre stage. 

The latter quickly found his feet with the putter on the Blue Monster course, sinking a 20 footer for birdie on the second hole before picking up another shot on the fourth following a glorious iron.

Solid pars interspersed with a couple of impressive saves thereafter, though Woods would pick up a further shot on ten.

Even bogeys on 16 and 18 could not take the shine off a victory that evoked memories of Woods' finest hours in the early 2000s.