The putter of Tiger Woods is likely carrying him to what will be his eighth career win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a return to the No. 1 world ranking for the first time since October of 2010. Woods leads Rickie Fowler by two shots through 14 holes of Monday's final round at Bay Hill.
Tiger started the day with a three-shot lead, and he's held that margin for almost the entire day. When it looked like someone might make things interesting, Woods has answered quickly each time -- usually with the putter.
Fowler has had trouble keeping pace with Woods when the two play together in the final round. But after a shaky start, Rickie has hung around today and forced Woods to make several clutch putts to keep his lead. The sequence that encapsulates Tiger's entire week on the greens happened on back-to-back holes on the inward nine, as he hit two huge putts on the 11th and 12th.
Tiger has carded only one bogey in his final round (the result of an ugly tee shot) and it looked like he might drop another shot on the 11th. He sent a lengthy lag putt across the green but still had over seven feet left to save par. He calmly struck the slight bender and drained it to keep the lead. On the 12th, Fowler poured in a long birdie putt to keep up the pressure for just a minute, as Tiger promptly put one in the center of the cup from 26 feet out to respond. It was his third birdie through the third par-five, and has been the highlight of the day so far for Tiger.
With four holes to play, Fowler is not going away. Given that all things are relative when talking about Tiger, it's fairly impressive to see Fowler hang around with him coming into the clubhouse. Rickie sank another long birdie putt on the 14th hole, while Woods was forced to save par with a greenside up-and-down. That cut the lead to two and gave Fowler some momentum, but it's still difficult to see Woods giving in, and he still has one more par-five ahead of him. One thing is clear -- Fowler's three birdies in a five-hole stretch have made this a two-horse race. Here's the top of the board, as well as some notables as we hit the final hour of play at Bay Hill:
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