Tiger Woods is back to No. 1 in the world with a game that look as good as ever.
Woods tied a PGA Tour record Monday by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the eighth time, and this one had some extra significance. It returned him to the top of the world ranking for the first time since the final week of October 2010, the longest spell of his career.
Woods never let anyone closer than two shots in the final round at Bay Hill that was delayed one day by storms. With a conservative bogey he could afford on the last hole, he closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot win over Justin Rose.
Next up is the Masters, where Woods will try to end his five-year drought in the majors.
Woods fell as low as No. 58 in the world as he coped with a crisis in his personal life and injuries to his left leg. One week after he announced he was dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, Woods celebrated his third win of the season, and his sixth going back to Bay Hill a year ago.
“It's a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments,” Woods said.
Vonn tweeted moments after his win, “Number 1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Like so many other wins, this one was never really close.
Rickie Fowler pulled to within two shots with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, but after he and Woods made bogey on the 15th, Fowler went at the flag on the par-5 16th and came up a few yards short and into the water. Fowler put another ball into the water and made triple bogey.
Woods played it safe on the 18th, and nearly holed a 75-foot par putt that even drew a big smile from the tournament host. He walked off the green waving his putter over his head to acknowledge the fans who had seen this act before.
Woods tied the tour record of eight wins in a single tournament. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times from 1938 to 1965 at two golf courses. Woods tied his record for most wins at a single golf course, having also won eight times at Torrey Pines, including a U.S. Open.
“I don't really see anybody touching it for a long time,” Palmer said as Woods was making his way up the 18th fairway. “I had the opportunity to win a tournament five times, and I knew how difficult that was.”
Rose, who played the first two rounds with Woods, closed with a 70 to finish alone in second.
Fowler had to settle for a 73 and a tie for third with Mark Wilson (71), Keegan Bradley (71) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (72).
Already with three wins this year, Woods is closing in on another Snead record — 82 career wins. Woods won for the 77th time on tour.
Rory McIlroy had been No. 1 since he won the PGA Championship last August. He is playing this week at the Houston Open.