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March 25 2012

10:30 PM

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By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

ORLANDO — Tiger Woods has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard for the seventh time. Here’s how it unfolded. Let us know what you think.  

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6:30 p.m. – Tiger Woods couldn’t quite convert the 34-footer for birdie at the 18th hole – but it didn’t matter. He won by five strokes, the largest margin on the PGA TOUR since Rory McIroy won the U.S. Open last year by eight. The win ended a 30-month PGA TOUR victory drought.

“It feels really good,” Woods told NBC’s Roger Maltbie. “It's been a lot of hard work. I am so thankful for a lot of people helping me out along the way."

6:27 p.m. – Graeme McDowell cleans up his 2-footer for a final par to get out of Tiger Woods’ way. McDowell’s runner-up finish is his second at Bay Hill.

6:21 p.m. -- Johnson Wagner hit his second shot from a divot at the 18th hole to 8 feet – the closest shot of the day there. He missed the putt but the Sony Open in Hawaii champ still managed to take over No. 1 in the FedExCup.

6:16 p.m. – Tiger took his largest lead of the tournament when he two-putted for par from 53 feet at the par-3 17th hole. McDowell missed the green, 73 feet from then pin, and couldn’t convert from 12 feet for par.

6:04 p.m. – Graeme McDowell is running out of holes – and chances. He misread a 7-footer for birdie at the par-5 15th with a chance to pick up a shot after Woods had missed his own birdie from 8 feet. McDowell was in the collection area over the green in two and putted from 93 feet to set up the birdie attempt. Woods was on the back fringe in two and sent his 60-footer past the hole.

5:46 p.m. – Ernie Els briefly held sole possession of third place as he made birdie at the 15th hole from just over the green in two. His playing partner, Ian Poulter, matched him, though, getting up and down from the greenside bunker for another. So the two are tied but Jim Furyk’s current tie for 11th could keep him out of the top 50 anyway.

5:42 p.m. – The 15th was another somewhat shaky hole for Tiger but he still managed to save par. He hit his drive into the fairway bunker and came up short with his second. He left himself a 13-footer to save par and it was center cut after Graeme McDowell just missed a 27-footer for birdie.

5:25 p.m. – Tiger came up well short in the collection area below the 14th green while Graeme McDowell’s tee shot at the par 3 trickled into the left greenside bunker. McDowell’s bunker shot then skidded across the green and stopped on the fringe, 35 feet from the hole, while Woods came up 8 feet short. When both players two-putted for bogeys the lead remained at four.

5:16 p.m. – PGA TOUR rookie Bud Cauley has broken out of the third-place tie as he two-putted for birdie from 48 feet at the par-5 15th hole. It was his second straight birdie and and he’s 2 under for the day.

5:14 p.m. – Another golden opportunity has passed Graeme McDowell by at the 13th hole as he hit a great approach to 6 feet but missed the birdie putt. Woods stayed 14 under when he tapped in for par after putting from 46 feet on his first.

5:10 p.m. – Ernie Els pitched in from 36 feet off the green to birdie the 14th hole. He’s in a three-way tie for sixth now with Ian Poulter and Bud Cauley at 6 under.

5:03 p.m. – A scrambling par at the 12th hole enabled Tiger to extend his lead to four shots. Woods pulled his tee shot at the par 5 but managed to hit his second just short of the green with a clear shot to the pin. Graeme McDowell’s drive had found the fairway but he didn’t take advantage, hitting his second into a bunker short and left of the green, then blasting out to 51 feet and three-putting for bogey.

4:50 p.m. -- We nearly had a two-shot swing at the 11th hole. McDowell made a 23-footer for birdie to move to 11 under while Woods had to make an 8-footer to save par after hitting his approach into the fans behind the green. He’s still 14 under and leading now by three strokes.

4:42 p.m. – Johnson Wagner is 1 over for the day but he’s now tied for third at 6 under with Tim Herron and Ian Poulter, who just bogeyed the par-5 12th. Wagner could take over No. 1 in the FedExCup if he finishes sixth or better.

4:37 p.m – Ernie Els missed a 3-footer to save par at the 11th hole. He’s now 3 over for the day and has fallen back to 5 under for the tournament. His third-place target? Well, that’s playing partner Ian Poulter, who is alone at 7 under.

4:31 p.m. – Graeme McDowell had a chance to get a shot back at the 10th hole when he hit his approach to 9 feet after a 318-yard drive. That’s because Tiger had driven into the right fairway bunker and hit his second shot 65 feet past the hole. Woods ended up making a 4-footer to retain his four-stroke lead.

4:15 p.m. – Ernie Els’ 21-footer for birdie to join Ian Poulter at 7 under -- and most importantly, regain a share of third -- stopped on the lip and stubbornly refused to fall.

4:11 p.m. – Tiger’s 24-footer for birdie just curled under the hole and he tapped in to stay 14 under. Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell had chipped from the fringe to 3 feet, 11 inches – but putting into his shadow, he couldn’t convert the saving putt. Woods is now 14 under and four shots clear of the field.

3:57 p.m. – Tiger regained a three-shot edge when he made a birdie putt of 2 feet, 11 inches at the eighth hole. Graeme McDowell two-putted from 25 feet, tapping in from 7 inches. Woods is now 14 under and seven strokes ahead of anyone other than the Northern Irishman.

3:46 p.m. – Ernie Els continues to head in the wrong direction. The affable South African, who needs to finish solo third or better to have a shot at making his way back into the top 50 in the world and earn a Masters invite, three-putted from 23 feet at the eighth hole to fall back to 6 under.

3:41 p.m. – Graeme McDowell hit the left side of the green at the par-3 seventh. Unfortunately for the Northern Irishman, the pin was on the right so he left himself a 55-footer. Tiger, meanwhile, was 28 feet past the hole. Both made par although McDowell was tested with a 4-footer coming back.

3:35 p.m. – Graeme McDowell flirted with disaster but his drive ended up clearing the lake at the par-5 sixth by about 4 yards. He and Woods both hit the green with two majestic shots but Tiger’s 17-footer for eagle certainly looked the more likely. That is, until McDowell drained that improbable 51-footer to move to 11 under. Tiger two-putted for birdie and is now up by two at 13 under.

3:20 p.m. – Tiger and Graeme McDowell both two-putt for pars at the fifth hole from 22 and 25 feet, respectively. The second par 5 on the front nine is on the horizon – and Woods has played those holes in 11 under this week.

3:05 p.m. – Ian Poulter made a 6-footer for birdie at the fifth hole to move into sole possession of third place at 8 under. That’s bad news for his playing partner, Ernie Els, who needs to finish solo third or better to have a shot at cracking the top 50 in the world and earning a spot in the Masters. Els is tied with Charlie Wi at 7 under.

3:01 p.m. – Tiger regains a three-stroke lead when he makes a 14-footer for birdie at the fourth hole. He went for the green in two and ended up left and long but chipped on and made the putt. McDowell laid up and ended up two-putting for par.

2:40 p.m. – Just when it looked like Tiger would regain his three-shot advantage, Graeme McDowell drained a 45-footer from the fringe to get to 9 under. Tiger answered with his 3-footer for birdie and is now 11 under.

2:28 p.m. – Tiger and Graeme McDowell both have birdie putts of about 40 feet – on nearly the same line – at No. 2. McDowell cozies his to 20 inches and makes par. Tiger’s ball runs about 6 feet by and left of the hole. He misses, though, so now his lead on the Northern Irishman is two.

2:22 p.m. – Ernie Els and Ian Poulter are having their troubles early, too. Els bogeyed the first hole while Poulter did the same at No. 2. They’re now 7 under a four behind Woods.

2:18 p.m. – Graeme McDowell’s third shot skids across the green and into another bunker. He blasts out with his fourth, which stops on the fringe. Woods misses his birdie putt but McDowell two-putts for double bogey and the lead is now three.

2:10 p.m. – Graeme McDowell has hit 45 fairways and leads in that category this week. Not on the first hole, though – his ball plugs in the bunker. Woods finds the green and has a 20-footer for birdie.

2:05 p.m – The crowd was about eight-deep around the first tee as Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell hit their opening drives. Both found the left side of the fairway about 20 yards apart from each other.

1:58 p.m. – About an hour before he teed off, Ernie Els told Brian Katrek of the PGA TOUR Network that the wind is coming from a different direction today. It’s out of the west instead of the east-south-east that’s been the prevailing wind the first three days.

1:45 p.m. – Here’s Graeme McDowell’s tweet prior to heading out to prep for what could be his first PGA TOUR win since the 2010 U.S. Open. “Looking forward to a great shootout today at Bay Hill. Tiger, myself, Ernie, Poults and others. Course is tough so that's main focus. #golow  #fb

1:25 p.m. – John Rollins has moved into the top 10 on the leaderboard with three birdies in his first eight holes. He made a 10-footer at the par-5 fourth hole and two-putted the sixth from 81 feet, then dropped a 15-footer at No. 7. He’s 5 under for the tournament.

12:58 p.m. – Tiger Woods, wearing his Sunday red and black trousers, has just made an appearance at the putting green. He gets to work while Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Ernie Els stop to chat with the Golf Channel and Brian Katrek of PGA TOUR Network on Sirius/XM.

12:20 p.m. – J.B. Holmes is bucking the scoring trend. He just made a 10-footer for eagle at the 15th hole and is 4 under for the day.

Noon – Judging from the early action with 50 players having teed off, Bay Hill isn’t being very generous on Sunday. William McGirt and Scott Stallings have posted 71s and three players are under par for the day on the back nine.

11:45 a.m. – Mother Nature must know what a big day this is because the forecast is perfect. Drier, less humid air has arrived and temperatures will be in the low- to mid-80s. Winds will be in the 15-20 mph-range as the leaders tee off.

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