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Woods scores thrilling comeback victory

March 30, 2009 07:31 IST

Tiger Woods came from five strokes behind to overhaul fellow-American Sean O'Hair and win his 66th PGA Tour title in spectacular style at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando Sunday.

Playing only his third tournament since returning from reconstructive knee surgery, Woods completed a record sixth victory in fading sunlight at the Bay Hill Club by sinking a 16-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win by a shot.

The world number one, who had been sidelined for eight months following his previous Tour win at the U.S. Open in June, closed with a three-under-par 67 to match his biggest final-round comeback on the circuit.

In 2000, he overhauled a five-shot deficit after 54 holes to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Woods finally caught O'Hair with a 26-foot birdie putt at the par-four 15th and claimed the outright lead for the first time when his playing partner bogeyed 16 after hitting his approach into water.

Although Woods stumbled with a bogey at the par-three 17th, he calmly rolled in the 16-footer on the 18th green for a five-under total of 275.

"It feels really good," the 33-year-old said in a greenside interview after celebrating his victory by backing away with a sweeping fist pump before embracing his caddie Steve Williams.

"It feels good to be back in contention again and to feel the rush and to have to deal with everything coming down the stretch. It's been a while but it kind of felt good."

O'Hair, bidding for a third PGA Tour title, had to settle for second place after closing with a 73 with 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson a further two strokes back at two under after a 69.


"I've got to look at the positive side of this, I'm playing great and the swing changes that I'm making are coming around," O'Hair, 26, told reporters. "I didn't give myself enough birdie opportunities out there today."

Australian John Senden, helped by four successive birdies from the fourth, carded a 67 to share fourth place at one under with Americans Nick Watney (68), Pat Perez (69) and Scott Verplank (69).

The final round, which was delayed by an hour and 45 minutes due to the threat of lightning, was, however, an effective head-to-head between overnight leader O'Hair and Woods.

Clearly feeling the pressure of playing in the company of the world number one, O'Hair had his lead trimmed to two after a nervy outward nine of one-over 36.

Woods closed to within a stroke of the lead after O'Hair bogeyed the 10th and finally drew level by sinking the 26-footer at the par-four 15th, punching his right fist into the air a couple of times in restrained celebration.

O'Hair's title bid appeared to end with a bogey at the par-four 16th where he wasted an ideal position off the tee by hitting his approach into water just short of the green.

Although Woods had been in trouble after his drive on 16 ended up in a poor lie in the right rough, he laid up in two before hitting an exquisite approach to three feet to save par.

A stroke in front, Woods immediately slipped back with a bogey at the 17th, when his tee shot ended up under the lip of the right greenside bunker, and he was unable to get up and down for par.

Just as he did last year, though, when he rolled in a 24-foot birdie putt on the final hole to secure victory by a shot, Woods delivered when it mattered most.

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