ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods finally brought the buzz back to the very thing that made him famous — winning.
Two weeks after another injury scare, Woods looked dominant as ever in that red shirt on Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the record seventh time.
It was his first PGA Tour victory since a sex scandal at the end of 2009 led to one of the greatest downfalls in sports. And with the Masters only two weeks away, Woods looks more capable than ever of resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus in the majors.
Woods closed with a 2-under 70 for a five-shot win over Graeme McDowell.
The question two weeks ago was when he could play again. Now, it’s whether he can get back to being the player who once ruled golf.
Woods refused to acknowledge this as his first PGA Tour win in 923 days, dating to Sept. 13, 2009, at the BMW Championship. He counts the unofficial Chevron World Challenge last December. Even so, this was significant — a full tour event against a strong field, and a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine.
The only thing missing was the host himself.
Palmer’s blood pressure increased during the final round from new medications, and he was taken to the hospital about 15 minutes before the tournament ended as a precaution. Alaistair Johnston, vice chairman at IMG and his longtime business manager, said Palmer would be kept overnight. “Nobody is overly concerned,” he said.
Woods goes to No. 6 in the world, returning to the top 10 for the first time since May 22.
He finished at 13-under 275 for his 72nd PGA Tour win, one short of Nicklaus for second place on the career list. But that’s not the record Woods wants. He has 14 majors, four short of the Nicklaus standard, and he tries to end a four-year drought at the Masters, which starts April 5.
McDowell made a 45-foot birdie putt and a 50-foot eagle putt early in the round to try to stay close, though he was never closer than two shots after starting with a double bogey. He closed with a 74.
KIA CLASSIC: Top-ranked Yani Tseng won the Kia Classic for her second straight LPGA Tour title and third in five events this year, closing with a 2-under 70 for a six-stroke victory at Carlsbad, Calif.
The 23-year-old Taiwanese star led wire-to-wire and finished at 14-under 274 on La Costa’s Legends Course. She became the second-youngest player to reach 15 LPGA Tour win. Nancy Lopez was 22 when she reached the mark.
Tseng won the LPGA Founders Cup last week in Phoenix and also won the LPGA Thailand in February. She led the tour last season with seven victories — including major victories in the LPGA Championship and Women’s British Open — and finished the year with 12 worldwide titles.
South Korea’s Sun Young Yoo had a 71 to finish second.
MISSISSIPPI GULF RESORT CLASSIC: Fred Couples made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke victory over Michael Allen in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in Saucier, Miss.
Couples finished at 14-under 202, opening with a course-record 63, at Fallen Oak for his seventh Champions Tour title and first of the year. He will play the PGA Tour’s Houston Open and the Masters the next two weeks.
Allen finished with a 66. Tom Pernice Jr. shot a 69 to tie for third with Jeff Sluman (73) at 10 under.
HASSAN II TROPHY: Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey won the Hassan II Trophy by three strokes, ending Italian teenager Matteo Manassero’s bid to qualify for the Masters, at Agadir, Morocco.
Hoey shot a 7-under 65 to finish at 17-under 271 at Golf du Palais Royal. Ireland’s Damien McGrane had a 70 to finish second. Wales’ Jamie Donaldson shot a course-record 61, holing his approach shot on 18 for eagle, to tie for third with England’s Robert Coles (67) and Wales’ Phillip Price (69) at 13 under.
The 18-year-old Manassero needed to win to enter the top 50 in the world ranking to make the Masters. He entered the final round tied for the lead, but shot a 72 to tie for sixth at 12 under.
LOUISIANA OPEN: Casey Wittenberg won the Louisiana Open for his first Nationwide Tour title, closing with a 6-under 65 for an eight-stroke victory in Broussard, La.
The 27-year-old former Oklahoma State player opened with round of 66, 66 and 63 and finished at 24-under 260 at Le Triomphe Country Club. Fabian Gomez, Chris Riley and Paul Claxton tied for second. Gomez shot 65, Riley 67, and Claxton 68.