Tiger Woods is starting to look ruthless on Sunday in his red shirt again.
One year after Tiger Woods hobbled off the Blue Monster, he picked up the pace in his march to the Masters. Woods delivered two quick birdies to take the drama out of Doral, and two late bogeys only made his victory in the Cadillac Championship seem closer than it really was.
Woods had full control of his game and never let anyone get closer than three shots until he had locked up his 17th World Golf Championship title. It was his 76th PGA Tour victory.
With a conservative bogey that didn’t matter on the final hole, he closed with a 1-under 71.
For the first time in five years, Woods has two wins before the Masters.
“That’s how I know I can play,” Woods said. “… Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good.”
Woods, who withdrew after 11 holes in the final round last year in Miami (tight left Achilles tendon), now has five wins in the past year, the most of anyone in the world. He can climb over Rory McIlroy back to No. 1 with a win at Bay Hill in two weeks.
Two strokes back in second was Steve Stricker, who gave Woods a putting lesson Wednesday.
“Thank you to Steve for the putting lesson,” Woods said at the trophy presentation. “It was one of those weeks where I felt pretty good about how I was playing, made a few putts and got it rolling.”
Stricker picked up his second runner-up finish in just three starts. He closed with a 68, and had no regrets about offering Woods some help.
“At times you kick yourself,” Stricker said and laughed. “He’s a good friend. We talk a lot about putting. It’s good to see him playing well.”
Asked if he would have won without that chance meeting with Stricker, Woods hedged a little.
“I would like to say I probably would have, but ...” he said with a smile. “I’ve been putting at home and it just still hadn’t felt right. I still was a little bit off. ... He basically got me in the same position that I was at Torrey. So once he put me in there where I felt comfortable, I said, ‘Well, this is not too foreign. This is what I was a month or so ago.’ And I started rolling it and it felt really, really good.”
The Masters is a month away, and Woods is sure to be the favorite.
“Majors and World Golf Championships are the best because you know you are playing against the best players,” Woods said. “That’s what makes wins like this special. That’s why I love to compete.”
McIlroy showed signs of recovering from his rough start to the season. He had a 65 and tied for eighth.
Woods finished at 19-under 269 and earned $1.5 million. He trails only Sam Snead’s record 82 wins.
PLAYER WINS EXEMPTION
Scott Brown made birdie on the 18th hole to go from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot victory in the Puerto Rico Open. He closed with a 2-under 70 in Rio Grande for his first PGA Tour title.
He earned a two-year exemption on tour and a spot in the PGA Championship.
Argentina’s Fabian Gomez lost a one-shot lead when he made bogey from a bunker on No. 18.
Peter Uihlein, the U.S. Amateur champion at Chambers Bay in 2010, tied for sixth to earn a spot in the Tampa Bay Classic this week.
Tacoma resident Troy Kelly tied for 67th after a 73 and earned $7,140
Kevin Kisner closed with a 4-under 68 to win the Chile Classic at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago. It was his second career title on the Web.com Tour.
The Putnam brothers from University Place picked up checks. Andrew Putnam earned $2,314 after his final-round 65 placed him in a tie for 47th. Older brother Michael Putnam faded to a 75, tied for 58th and won $1,999.