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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Tiger Woods upbeat on his form as Rory McIlroy ends victory drought at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Fourteen-time major winner believes he is getting stronger with every tournament as he finishes fifth.

Tiger Woods is pleased with his form ahead of the US Masters. Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports
Tiger Woods is pleased with his form ahead of the US Masters. Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports

Tiger Woods came up short in his bid for a comeback win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday as Rory McIlroy triumphed but a promising performance for a second week in a row looks like sending him off to next month's US Masters with growing confidence.

Woods achieved his second consecutive top five performance at Bay Hill on Sunday, a couple of late bogeys leaving him tied for fifth a week after he finished in second place at the Valspar Championship.

After a long absence from the game while he dealt with a series of back problems, Woods looks like he is finally putting his game back together a week at a time.

"I’m starting to piece it together, tournament by tournament, and each tournament’s gotten a little crisper and a little bit better," Woods told Gold Digest in Florida.

"If I can play with no pain, and I can feel like I can make golf swings, I’ll figure it out."

Rory McIlroy celebrates after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th green to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Stephen M Dowell /Orlando Sentinel via AP
Rory McIlroy celebrates after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th green to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Stephen M Dowell /Orlando Sentinel via AP

At Bay Hill, it was his putting touch that seemed to return - the 42-year-old draining a 71-foot effort in the first round before adding a 38-footer in the third round.

More importantly, however, the 14-times major champion was consistently steady on his short range putts over a week that saw him make 20 birdies in total.

"I felt like I really putted well the entire week (and) hit a lot of good putts," Woods said after finishing with four rounds of par or better.

His putting stroke will be of most importance at Augusta National where the greens are slick and undulating. Woods has won four times at the famous course but not played at the Masters since 2015.

"I miss playing there," Woods said. "I’ve had a lot of success there, too, so really looking forward to getting up there and doing a bit of work and getting a feel for the golf course and basically feel for playing that style of golf again."

McIlroy said he played a "perfect round of golf" after scooping his first victory in 18 months and admitted he had missed the feeling of chasing a win.

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The 28-year-old carded final round of 64 at Bay Hill, reeling off five birdies on the final six holes to finish on 18 under par.

It put him three shots ahead of his nearest rival Bryson DeChambeau.

The Northern Irishman told Sky Sports golf: "I played a perfect round of golf.

"It was awesome to feel the buzz of being somewhere around the lead going into the back nine and reeling off those four birdies in a row.

"I've missed it, I really have missed it, and to play the sort of golf that I played today under that pressure, I'm really proud of myself and just so happy to win."

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