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Tiger Woods Will Roll to Victory at Arnold Palmer Invitational Despite Delay

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 24:  Tiger Woods of the United States plays his tee shot at the par 4, 1st hole during the final round of the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill Golf and Country Club on March 24, 2013 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2013

Tiger Woods was sporting his Sunday red and quickly increased his lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to three strokes before a rainstorm forced completion of it to Monday. The delay won't stop him from finishing off his eighth win in the event.

A victory would give Woods three in five PGA Tour starts before the first major of the 2013 season even tees off. It would also mark his return to the top spot in the rankings and make him the prohibitive favorite heading to Augusta for The Masters next month.

More impressively, he's starting to leave fields in the dust again. In each of his first two triumphs of the season, at the Farmers Insurance Open and the WGC Cadillac Championship, he was able to sputter a bit on the back nine without having to worry about losing his lead.

He's not worried about style points. He just wants wins. So if he's up by six strokes at the turn, he's going to start playing a little more conservatively to ensure he comes out on top, even if it means the final margin is only two or three strokes.

At the same time, his current form is so good that if he's forced into a tighter battle on Monday, it would still be a shock if he gives up the lead. He's dialed in on the greens, leaving him plenty of margin for error in the other areas of his game.

While Woods' struggles off the tee give players like Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler a chance with almost a full round to play, in the bigger picture it should worry everybody else on tour, including those expecting to challenge him at Augusta.

Here's a player who once faced daily questions about his ability to get back to the top. He's now winning a tournament by three strokes despite being nowhere near his absolute best. If he puts everything together at The Masters, fans will be treated to a vintage Tiger performance.

He will face doubters until he wins another major, but given the fact he's been unflappable on U.S. soil this year (he missed a cut in Abu Dhabi), it's starting to feel more like a certainty than a major question mark.

Yet, he's not thinking that far ahead. Woods is focused on picking up his 77th career victory on the PGA Tour, which would leave him five away from tying Sam Snead for the most in history. He would also like to finish on a high note in his final event before The Masters.

Passing Rory McIlroy in the rankings to assume the top spot is another thing on his mind. Not only is it something the detractors said would probably never happen again, but they also pointed at McIlroy as the player capable of dethroning him for good.

Now, as McIlroy goes through wide-ranging problems that are being blamed on a club change, Woods is charging again and looking like the best player on the planet—and it isn't even close.

He will prove that on Monday by closing the door on any contenders planning to make a charge. Nobody in the history of the sport is a better closer, which is a testament to his mental strength and plays mind games with everybody else hoping to chase him down.

Anything less than win No. 77 would be a massive surprise.

 

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