DORAL, Fla. — That guy in the red shirt is starting to look ruthless on Sunday 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 remove any drama, 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. With a conservative bogey that didn’t matter on the final hole, he closed with a 1-under 71.
“That’s how I know I can play,” Woods said. “That’s the thing. To be able to bring it out a couple times so far this year – and then be able to close and get the Ws on top of that – that’s nice. Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good.”
And to think it was one year ago Sunday when Woods withdrew after 11 holes in the final round at Doral because of tightness in his left Achilles tendon, the same injury that had cost him to sit out most of the previous summer. It created uncertainty about his health and whether he could ever get his game back.
Woods has won five times in the last year, the most of anyone in the world, and he can return to No. 1 with a win at Bay Hill in two weeks.
He won by two shots over Steve Stricker, who might want to claim a share of this trophy.
Stricker spent 45 minutes on the putting green with Woods on the eve of the tournament, helping him with his posture over putts. Woods made 27 birdies this week, one short of his personal best on the PGA Tour.
“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, playing a part-time schedule, 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 with a laugh. “He’s a good friend. We talk a lot about putting. It’s good to see him playing well.”
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.”
Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world, showed signs of recovering from his rough start to the season. He had a 65 and tied for eighth.
Woods won in January at Torrey Pines by four shots. He won for the fourth time at Doral, making this the seventh golf course where he has won at least four times.
Graeme McDowell, who started the final round four shots behind, made a birdie on the opening hole but never got any closer. McDowell had third place to himself until he went for the green on the 18th hole and found the water. He made double bogey, shot 72 and fell into a four-way tie for third.
Phil Mickelson (71), Sergio Garcia (69) and Adam Scott (64) also tied for third.
Woods improved to 40-2 on the PGA Tour when he had the outright lead going into the final round.
“The way Tiger was playing, I was always in chase mode,” McDowell said. “He was always going to be a tough guy to catch. Fair play to him. He played fantastic golf the last couple of days.”
Woods finished at 19-under 269 and earned $1.5 million.
McIlroy’s week ended on a happy note. He opened with a 7-iron into 18 feet for eagle, then shot a 32 on the back nine.