Tiger Woods hit so many great shots that he couldn’t single one out as the best of his week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Winning was as sweet as ever, even after a PGA Tour drought that stretched over 923 days and 27 tournaments.
The best part about posing with the trophy at Bay Hill?
Luke Donald is in the second week of his current reign as world No. 1. He previously held the top spot for 40 weeks before Rory McIlroy briefly dethroned him.
1. Luke Donald
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Lee Westwood
4. Martin Kaymer
5. Steve Stricker
6. Tiger Woods
7. Charl Schwartzel
8. Justin Rose
9. Webb Simpson
10. Adam Scott
The conversation was back on golf, his favorite subject.
Just two weeks ago, Woods gingerly climbed into a golf cart and was taken off the golf course at Doral with soreness and swelling in his left Achilles tendon, the same injury that caused him to miss three months and two majors last year.
On Sunday, no one questioned his health. Woods marched to a five-shot victory that restored his confidence and gave him momentum going into the Masters two weeks away.
“This was coming,” Woods said. “I’ve been close a number of times, basically since Australia. Just had to stay the course.”
With the win, Woods climbs 12 spots in the world ranking, up to No. 6 in the world, returning to the top 10 for the first time since May 22, 2011.
The five spots ahead of Woods remained unchanged, with Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy very close together in the top two spots. Lee Westwood keeps a solid hold on third, with 2012 PGA Champion Martin Kaymer in fourth and Steve Stricker still the top American in fifth.
Reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who lost the sixth spot to Woods, is down to seventh. Recent Doral winner Justin Rose remains in eighth, while Webb Simpson drops from seventh down to ninth and Adam Scott falls from ninth to 10th, knocking former No. 10 Jason Day out of the top 10.
The second 10 includes No. 11 Day, No. 12 Dustin Johnson, No. 13 Graeme McDowell, No. 14 Hunter Mahan, No. 15 Phil Mickelson, No. 16 Bill Haas, No. 17 Matt Kuchar, No. 18 Bubba Watson, No. 19 Nick Watney and No. 20 Keegan Bradley.
Also on Sunday, Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland climbed up to No. 74 from his previous spot at 98 by winning the Hassan II Trophy on the European Tour.
Only a month ago, there were concerns that Woods could no longer make the important putts.
He had missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the last hole to lose in the second round at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He missed several putts just as close when he crashed out in the final round at Pebble Beach. But there he was at Bay Hill, knocking in two big par putts on the back nine to keep his distance from Graeme McDowell.
“I just never got close to him,” McDowell said.
And then there’s the book by his ex-swing coach, Hank Haney. “The Big Miss” has been such a sore spot with Woods that he lost his cool with a reporter earlier this month. The book reveals a driven player who is self-centered and rarely satisfied, no big surprise except that it was a side of Woods he tried to keep private for all these years.
Woods added a chapter to his own book Sunday.
He won for the 72nd time on the PGA Tour -- one short of Jack Nicklaus in second place on the career list -- and 84th time worldwide. It was the 16th time he won by at least five shots, and his seventh win at Bay Hill tied the PGA Tour for most wins on a single golf course. Woods owns both marks. He also has won seven times at Firestone.
“I think he really just kind of nailed home his comeback,” McDowell said. “Great to have a front-row seat watching maybe the greatest of all time doing what he does best -- winning golf tournaments.”