Woods and Bay Hill: A Tiger tale of total dominance

At his peak, Tiger Woods could win anywhere, any time, on any course, but he had a special affinity with the Bay Hill Club, winning there no less than eight times.

It's staggering enough to recall that Tiger Woods has won 82 times on the PGA Tour, a dizzying total that only Sam Snead has equalled and no-one bettered.

Consider, for example, that Australia's Greg Norman had a sensational career and yet he won 20 times on the PGA Tour, less than a quarter of Woods' tally.

Nowhere was the Californian as strong as when he took on the Bay Hill Club in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He won there eight times - a shade under 10% of his entire victory total on the PGA Tour.

Following his car accident in February, Woods won't be returning to this year's event, but let's take a closer look at, and celebrate, those eight triumphs.

2000 - Breakthrough

Young Tiger at Bay Hill was actually a little like normal golfers anywhere.

In his second start at the course in 1998 he'd posted a first round 64 to lead the field, but thereafter moved in the wrong direction with every lap of the course.

In 1999, a year when he won nine times in 23 starts around the world, he finished outside the top 50 just three times and one of those occasions was at Bay Hill.

If people were having their doubts about his ability to contend there he put them to bed in the first year of the new century.

Woods with tournament host Arnold Palmer.
Woods with tournament host Arnold Palmer.

Rounds of 69-64 opened up a one shot halfway lead, a Saturday 67 doubled the advantage and 2000 was not a year when the field stood in the way of a charging Tiger Woods.

His final round 70 left him four clear of Davis Love III and was one of ten wins (and 19 top five finishes) in just 22 worldwide starts.

Runner-up Love III was asked to grade the winner and came up with a great line.

"A-minus," he said. "But he's A-minus every single round."

2001 - Successful defence

Something odd happened at the start of 2001.

Tiger, briefly, forgot how to win.

Arriving at Bay Hill, he'd made six starts in the year and hadn't yet lifted a trophy.

When he opened the tournament with a 71 to lie T35th that drought appeared set to continue.

A Friday 67 got him back in the hunt, a Saturday 66 earned him a one shot lead heading into Sunday, and a final round 69 sealed the deal by one shot.

"It was ugly," Woods admitted, before admitting that he had also got lucky.

But with the drought broken, the wins flooded in - Bay Hill was the first of five victories in his next six starts.

2002 - Deja vu

As in the previous year, Bay Hill was Woods seventh start of the season - and he was also yet to find a win.

It was also another scrap for the win, not that anyone expected as much when he opened up a four shot halfway lead.

But a Saturday 74 and a slow start on Sunday meant he trailed Phil Mickelson by one stroke approaching the turn.

"It was quite a fight out there," Woods said later. "I tried to hang in there. You need to play smart, and I was able to do that."

He eventually prevailed by four shots to complete the Bay Hill hat trick.

2003 - Four in a row

A New Year, a new schedule, a new Tiger Woods?

In one sense, yes.

In 2003 he made just three starts ahead of his return to Florida, all of them in California, and he was the winner in two of them.

Finally, he had momentum heading to Arnie's Place and boy did it show.

A second round 65 opened up a three shot lead, a Saturday 66 increased it to five, and a Sunday 68 left the field not so much in his wake as in another stretch of water entirely - Woods won by 11 shots.

Incredibly he did it all despite suffering from food poisoning which almost put him in hospital on the Saturday night.

"Every single shot hurt because my abs were obviously sore from last night," he explained. "The night was long and the day was probably longer."

2008 - Breaking the bad run

Perhaps the last thing anyone expected after four consecutive wins at Bay Hill was four successive failures to get into contention at the weekend.

From 2004 through 2007, however, Woods had a best finish there of T20th.

He went from breaking 70 12 times in 16 laps to doing so just twice in his next 16.

However, he could hardly have been in better form arriving at Bay Hill in 2008.

Woods had not only won in his first three appearances of the year, he'd won seven of the last eight tournament he had started (and finished second when he didn't lift the trophy)!

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The run looked set to end when he headed into the weekend seven shots back of the leader Vijay Singh.

But a Saturday 66 gave him a shot at the win and he then gave himself a 25-feet look at birdie on the final green for a second 66 and also the win.

At the side of the green Palmer said: "You know what's going to happen, don't you?"

He was right. It did.

Tiger drained the putt, one of the finest moments in a career full of them.

2009 - Bounce back

Woods only played another three times in 2008, following the win at Bay Hill.

Injury struck and, after winning the US Open with a broken leg, he went into rehabilitation.

Two starts in 2009 revealed understandable rust, but could Bay Hill provide a spark?

He gave it a good shot, opening with rounds of 68-69-71 to lie solo second, but Sean O'Hair was five shots clear of him with 18 holes to play.

A final round in the last group out with Tiger Woods was always a tough ask - and so it transpired.

Woods carded a 67 to win by one.

"It's like Stevie (Williams, his caddie) was saying out there," Woods said. "It feels like we hadn't left."

2012 - Redemption

At the end of 2009 Woods' life changed forever.

His private life was laid bare, his marriage collapsed and his game withered, both physically and mentally.

He had gone 29 starts and nearly two and a half years, without tasting victory when he teed it up in the 2012 tournament.

A Friday 65 gave Woods a share of the lead before the weekend conditions made scoring tough.

Woods ground out rounds of 71-70 to earn a five shot comeback triumph.

"Pure joy," he said. "I've been making steps in the right direction. I was just a yard here or a yard there away. It feels good."

2013 - Return to World No. 1

Despite his fall from grace (and playing almost no golf), Woods' dominance meant that it was not until October 2010 that he dropped from top spot in the world rankings.

But it was only with victory at Bay Hill in 2013 that he returned to that position.

The win was also the second of three in just four starts - the last time he would provide such a burst of prolonged magic.

A Saturday 66 vaulted him into a two shot 54-hole lead and a Sunday 70 confirmed it.

"This event means so much to me," he said. "I've lived here in Orlando. The first house I ever owned was here. Both my kids were born here. It is a very special place."

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