Tiger Woods halted a 2 1/2-year drought in tournament victories Sunday by taking the Arnold Palmer Invitational in a manner that reminded golf fans of his days dominating the sport.
Woods's five-shot win restored his confidence at a crucial time: The Masters, the year's first major tournament, is just two weeks away.
But Sunday at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., provided relief as well for Woods, who had endured a PGA Tour dry spell of 923 days and 27 tournaments.
And the triumph in Florida also seems to have finally put to rest questions about the superstar's health and focus after a hiatus that began with a scandal in his personal life.
Just two weeks ago, he was taken off the golf course at the Doral resort near Miami with soreness and swelling in his left Achilles' tendon, the same injury that caused Woods to miss three months and two majors last year, the Associated Press noted.
This was coming, Woods said Sunday. I've been close a number of times, basically since Australia. Just had to stay the course.
It just feels good. As I said, just pure joy, he added.
The win was the 72nd of Woods's PGA Tour career, one behind Jack Nicklaus for No. 2 on the all-time list. No. 71 came 30 months ago, at the BMW Championship outside Chicago in September 2009.
His last win against a full field had been Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters.
Twelve days later, on Thanksgiving in 2009, Woods drove his SUV into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and soon revelations of multiple extramarital affairs began to surface, leading to divorce and shattering the golfer's pristine marketing image.
He has won back the support of many fans, but several corporate sponsors that severed ties with Woods have yet to return.
At Bay Hill on Sunday, Woods knocked in two big par putts on the back nine to keep his distance from Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland.
I just never got close to him, McDowell said.
The only thing missing Sunday was the tournament's host.
Arnold Palmer's blood pressure increased during the final round from new medications, and he was taken to a hospital about 15 minutes before the tournament ended as a precaution. Alaistair Johnston, Palmer's longtime business manager, said the golf legend would be kept overnight. Nobody is overly concerned, Johnston said.
Woods finished the tournament at 13-under 275, matching the highest in any of his seven wins at Bay Hill. McDowell managed only a 74 on Sunday but still finished two shots ahead of third-place Ian Poulter.
Six men were another shot back at 5-under, including Ernie Els, who again missed a chance to earn a late Masters invitation by moving into the top 50 of the world rankings.
Woods now stands at No. 6 in the PGA rankings, his first time in the top 10 since last May.
All eyes will now be on the Masters, which begins April 5 in Augusta, Ga. There, Woods will get a chance to add to the list he values most -- Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles, which Woods still needs four more to tie.
I've gone into Augusta with wins and without wins, he was quoted as saying by the Orlando Sentinel. Just hopefully everything comes together for that one week. I understand how to play Augusta National, and it's just a matter of executing the game plan.