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Woods wins at Bay Hill

By Jeff Shain and Austin Lyon, The Orlando Sentinel –

ORLANDO, Fla. — The drought is over.

Tiger Woods emphatically ended a 30-month stretch without PGA Tour victory by dominating the field in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

(PHOTO: Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the 7th time at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida, Sunday, March 25, 2012.)

“It certainly feels really good,” Woods said. “It’s was nice to win here and with Arnold’s involvement in the tournament.”

Woods shot a final round 70 to win by five shots, the largest margin of victory on tour since Rory McIlroy’s triumph at last year’s U.S. Open. He persevered through tough conditions while his closest pursuers faltered.

“It was a day of attrition. Just got to hang in there and keep hitting fairways and greens,” Woods said. “There weren’t going to be a lot of birdie opportunities out there, but when you had them, I feel like I had to take advantage of it.”

It’s the seventh Arnold Palmer Invitational for Woods, who turned a one shot lead to start the day to a four-shot advantage by the start of the back nine.

Woods hit every green on the front nine and posted 3-under 33 to separate himself from the field. Graeme McDowell finished second at 8-under with Ian Poulter taking third at 6-under.

Ernie Els, who needed to finish second to earn a trip to The Masters, missed several short putts in the final round and shot 75 to finish in a tie for fourth with six other players.

It’s the first PGA Tour victory for Woods since the 2009 BMW Championship in Chicago. Following the win, Woods’ thoughts turned toward The Masters, which begins in less than two weeks.

“I’ve won here on a few occasions going into Augusta which has always been a good feeling,” he said. “I still have got some work to do, but I’m excited about the things that we have accomplished. It’s been very good.”

After a bogey at the second hole, Woods birdied four of his next six to reach 14-under par. He did most of his damage on the par-5’s, finishing 12-under for the tournament.

He received a huge ovation after the final putt on the 18th green as his legions celebrated his 72nd career victory.

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