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The 76th

The final winning margin of 2 shots did not really describe the dominance of Tiger Woods’ 76th career PGA Tour victory at Doral.

It was his seventh victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and his fourth win at the event at Doral. Woods has now won an amazing 17 World Golf Championship events, of which there are 4 played every year. WGC events in one form or another invite the World’s Top 50 golfers so the fields are routinely the best in golf with the exception of the 4 Majors. To give his 17 WGC victories some perspective, the most won by any other golfer is 3 (Geoff Ogilvy).

After an opening round of 66, Woods was in complete command of the tournament. Graeme McDowell made a brief run at Woods during Saturday’s third round, playing his first six holes in 4-under par to be tied for the lead. Woods however would put his game into another gear and end the day with a 4 shot lead heading into Sunday’s final round.

The course played much harder on the weekend as the winds were much more of a factor than they had been in the earlier two rounds. After playing the last 36 holes with Woods here is what McDowell had to say:

“In this wind the last couple days, his ball flight control is pretty stunning, really, the way he flights his irons around. It’s pretty cool to watch. I thought his short game and putting the last couple days was very impressive. He cleaned up everything he had to clean up pretty much. It was good stuff.”

Earlier in the week Woods had received a putting lesson from his good friend, Steve Stricker. Stricker, who now plays the Tour part-time (in three events this year he has finished second twice and third in the other), is widely considered as one of the best putters in the history of the game. For the four rounds at Doral, Woods needed only 100 putts, a personal best.

Ironically, it was Stricker who would finish two strokes behind Woods in second place. When asked about whether he regretted giving advice to Woods afterwards, the likeable Stricker said, “It’s kind of the nature of our game. Older players have done it with me and now I’m one of those older players, I guess, and when somebody asks me for help, I tend to give it to them”.

Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, observed that this was Woods’ best 72-hole performance since he began caddying for him in October 2011.

His iron play and ball flight control for the week was almost flawless. His chipping and wedge game were in prefect harmony. If Woods does have an “Achilles heel” with his game at the moment, it is his sometimes erratic driving.

He has a propensity to miss his drives to the right and sometimes drastically so.  Statistically for the week, he would hit only 53% of his drives in the fairway and rank 30th in the field for driving accuracy. But that may be being very “nitpicky”. It is almost impossible for a golfer, no matter how great they are, to be…..perfect in every aspect of the game.

This was Woods’s fifth win in the last 50 weeks and his second of 2013. It may be too much to expect him to return to the other-worldly form that he played with in the early part of the century but we think that it is pretty safe to assume that he is ‘back’.