2008 Arnold Palmer Invitational Review and Notes
by Matt of Predictem.com
For what seems like the first time in forever, Tiger Woods needed all 72 holes to gain a PGA Tour victory as he went down to the wire to take top honors at The Arnold Palmer Invitational from Bay Hill. With a familiar dominance missing, a lengthy birdie putt falling on 18 will be the lasting memory of this win, his fifth in a row dating back to ’07 and his fifth win in this event.
The win streak looked in jeopardy as Tiger opened with an even-par 70. A Friday 68 bumped Woods up the board a bit, but still found him seven back of 36 hole leader, Vijay Singh. But as is often the case, Woods had plenty in the tank just as others were beginning to gas. A third round 66 coupled with the field coming back, found Woods tied with four others going into Sunday. The resulting win should have surprised no one as Tiger had converted on 42 of 45 previous chances in which he held at least a share of the 54 hole lead.
Playing in the final group, Tiger held the hammer and would need it to hold off a charge from Bart Bryant. Bryant dropped a couple of birdies on the back nine to tie him atop the leaderboard and sent him to the clubhouse at 9-under par. Woods came to 18 looking for a birdie to end it and got off to a good start by piping a drive down the left side of the fairway. A smooth mid-iron shot settled 25 feet away in the middle of the green, all but assuring a par and a playoff at worst. Tiger then decided to make his longest putt of the week, winning in dramatic fashion and leaving Bryant and everyone shaking their head. The putt gave Tiger a second straight 66, as he finished the week at 10-under par, 270.
Bart Bryant was alone in second at 9-under, 271, his best finish of the year and would win a consistency award for this week, carding all four rounds in the 60’s. Vijay Singh looked to defend his Palmer title, but a 73 on Saturday took the wind out of that sail and Singh finished in a tie for 3rd with Cliff Kresge and Sean O’Hair at 7-under par. O’Hair owned the low round of the tournament, a third round 63, that had him alongside Woods in the final group.
Notable finishers include Phil Mickelson in a tie for 21st. Lefty never really contended, finishing 9 strokes back at 1-under par, 279. Jim Furyk looked to be a factor after opening with a pair of 67’s but consecutive 73’s on the weekend bumped him down to even-par and a t31 finish. A blast from the past found Fred Couples leading after a first round 65. Freddy struggled the rest of the way out however, going 12-over par after Thursday, falling to 64th. Notable players missing the cut included Luke Donald, Stuart Appleby and Scott Verplank.
Tiger took home the winner’s check of $1.04 million and has further cemented his lead on the Official Money List. Phil Mickelson remains in the second spot, now a full million and change behind. K.J. Choi, Justin Leonard and Stewart Cink round out the top-5. The top-10 has two new members in Vijay Singh and Sean O’Hair at 7th and 8th, respectively. Cliff Kresge and Bart Bryant were the big movers with their quality finishes. Kresge went from 74th to 33rd and Bryant sits 18th, up from 77th.
Woods has a stranglehold on the FedExCup Points List as well. Winning all three events he has competed in, Tiger is a full 5,000+ points ahead of Mickelson in the second spot. Sean O’Hair moves into the 5th spot with a win and a 3rd in his last two starts. Bryant makes it into the top-20, currently 17th, up from 75th.
The Tour plays a WGC event this week, The CA Championship at Miami’s Doral Resort. Those outside the qualifying list for Doral will tee it up at Trump International Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico Open.
Tiger won his 64th PGA Tour event out of 205 starts, a .312 winning percentage. His closest competition on that list is Mickelson with 33 wins in 337 starts, a .098 win percentage.
Perhaps just to prove he can do it all, Tiger led the field in scrambling this week at the Palmer to help him prevail. Woods got up and down for par or better 17 of the 22 times he failed to hit a green in regulation.