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March 20 2013

2:30 PM

Woods can get back to No. 1 this week

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's been 871 days.

Or 2 years, 4 months, 19 days.

Or just shy of 125 weeks.

Or roughly 20,904 hours, give or take when you're reading this.

That's how long it's been since Tiger Woods was last No. 1 in the world. With a win at this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, however, he can move past Rory McIlroy and back into the spot he once ruled from like an iron-fisted dictator.

"It's been a long process," Woods said Wednesday at Bay Hill, where he's won seven times previously. "I was hurt for a long time, I had to make swing changes that were drastically different than what I was doing before. It's taken some time."

At one point, Woods fell outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings -- something that once seemed inconceivable.

But with five wins in the last 12 months, Woods is back. Now he's nearly back to the top of the game.

And it all started here with a victory a year ago at Bay Hill, where Woods coasted to a five-shot victory over Graeme McDowell for his first PGA TOUR win since 2009.

"To gradually work my way back, that's something I'm proud of," Woods said.

After undergoing personal transgressions off the course and suffering multiple injuries on it in 2010 and 2011, Woods is also happy to be healthy.

"That's been the biggest difference the last couple of years I've been able to do that now," he said. "Hence, the results have been so much better than they were a few years ago.

"I just needed to get healthy. Once I got healthy and I was able to practice properly, I felt like then I could implement the swing changes that Sean (Foley) wanted me to put in there. But I needed to get healthy enough where I could practice. It happened to be a perfect storm where I was making a swing change, and I was hurt, and I couldn't devote any time to it."

The skies certainly look brighter for Woods these days.

He's already won twice this season, in commanding fashion at Torrey Pines and two weeks ago at Doral, where he had the fewest number of putts in four rounds he's ever had in a career that's littered with record-breaking perfornances.

Not that the road back was easy, even when Woods was winning.

"Probably middle part of last year I was more frustrated not with my ball-striking, just my lack of scoring," he said. "Chipping, and putting and scoring, and not making the crucial save here and there. I was very, very frustrated at times."

This year has been a different story.

Woods has been in control of most if not all facets of his game. It has shown in the results and the labor has finally started to bear fruit.

"I feel like I'm headed in the right direction," he said. "I'm very pleased where I've come from. Like I said, 50‑plus to where I'm at is no small task."

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