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March 23 2011

3:49 PM

Palmer thinks Woods can still win

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Tiger Woods (shown here Wednesday) has six career wins at Bay Hill.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Arnold Palmer never underwent a swing change in his career.

“I started with a pattern when I started playing the TOUR, and I stuck with it until today, and I will go with it today in the pro‑am and hope to hell I can hit it in the fairway and hope I can hit it longer than what I've been hitting it,” Palmer said. “I hit it so far these days that I hear it land.”

He also never had a swing coach, save for his father, Deacon.

“I saw him at least once a year for about 70 years, and he never changed anything” Palmer said. “He watched me for five minutes and went home. He put my grip on the club and my hands on the golf club when I was six years old and he said, ‘Boy, don’t you ever change it.’ Well, I haven’t changed it.”

Tiger Woods, who has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard six times, obviously has. The latest of those changes has not only drawn criticism from various circles, it’s surprised some, too -- including Palmer.

“I thought that the first few times that I played with him on the TOUR, way back when he first came out, and I thought he had a great swing and I thought he had a great posture in hitting the golf ball,” Palmer said. “And obviously it was, because he didn't win all of those tournaments without having those things.

“I'm a little surprised that he's changing his game or doing what he's doing to his game, which I'm really not sure what it is.”

One of the things Palmer did notice, however, is that Woods, who missed last year’s event while on hiatus, appears to be laying the club off a little more in his swing than in the past -- not that Palmer was being overly critical; it was just an observation he had.

That said, Palmer added that he feels like Woods is still capable of winning at any time, despite Woods having endured his worst season on TOUR in 2010 and with just one top-10 this year after a final-round 66 two weeks ago at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.

“I feel like Tiger has a golf game that he can come to the surface any time,” Palmer said. “I think that's certainly a possibility here. He likes the golf course. He likes what we've done. So I would just not count him out at all.”

The last time Woods did win here was in 2009 when he sank a 12-foot putt on the final hole to beat Sean O’Hair by a stroke.

And another victory at Bay Hill could give Woods the confidence he needs heading into the year’s first major at Augusta National.

“If I was playing good and winning tournaments, I always felt pretty good going to Augusta,” Palmer said. “I think that's just a confidence builder to win a golf tournament, and I think that would apply to any player in the field. For a lot of years, I had won tournaments prior to Augusta. So that wasn't something that I worried about.”

The same could be said about Woods. -- Brian Wacker

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