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The Tour Report

March 25 2012

11:54 AM

Will Woods rise to this challenge?

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

ORLANDO -- Bay Hill, which has played more than a stroke above par through the first three rounds, is difficult enough. And Sunday seems to have brought more of the same with 42 players now on the venerable course and only seven in red numbers for the round.

Seeing Tiger Woods' name at the top of any leaderboard brings added challenge -- but particularly at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. After all, this is a man who has won the tournament a record six times and he owns a one-stroke lead over Graeme McDowell as the two tee off at 2:05 p.m. ET.

"He doesn't seem to struggle around Bay Hill," said Charles Howell III, who starts the final round four strokes off the pace. "It's going to take a heck of a round from somebody tomorrow to catch him, maybe make him sweat a bit.

"You know what, it's so good to see his name up at the top of his leaderboard. It's good for the golf and it's good for the players. It's fun going out there."

Woods takes at least a share of the lead into the final round for the 53rd time, and he has won 48 times previously. One of the most telling stats is that he has outscored his final-round playing partner by 2.92 strokes in those events.

“I'm just looking forward to it,” Woods said. “It's going to be fun. Graeme and I, we enjoy playing together and it's going to be a fun pairing. I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing what happens.”

At the same time, Woods and McDowell have played together 10 times and are dead even in terms of who shot the lowest round – 4-4-2. McDowell did get the best of Woods in the final round of the 2010 Chevron World Challenge, though, as he came from four strokes back to win.

The Northern Irishman is excited to have another chance to test his game against the former world No. 1.

“There's a familiarity of Tiger Woods being on the leaderboard every week, because that's what he did when he was at his best … up until a few years ago, really,” McDowell said. “No doubt, it's been a weird couple of years without him kind of competing, but I'm kind of in the camp that believes that Tiger Woods is extremely good for the game of golf and great to see him back playing good again and competing for events.

“… It’s fun to have him back. We want to win the biggest events and we want to win majors with him in the field because he's going to be possibly the greatest of all time if not the greatest of all time. It's going to be fun for us to look back on our careers when we’ve had big wins over him.”