DORAL, Fla. — Tiger Woods is hitting his stride on a march to the Masters.
Woods had full control of his game Sunday and never let anyone get closer than three shots until he had locked up his 17th World Golf Championship title. With a conservative bogey that didn’t matter on the final hole, he closed with a 1-under 71 to win the Cadillac Championship.
For the first time in five years, Woods has two wins before the Masters.
It was one year ago at Doral that Woods withdrew after 11 holes in the final round because of tightness in his left Achilles tendon, creating uncertainty about his health and whether he could ever get his game back.
Woods has won five times in the last year, the most of anyone in the world, and he can return to No. 1 with a win at Bay Hill in two weeks.
He won by two shots over Steve Stricker, who might want to claim a share of this trophy.
Stricker spent 45 minutes on the putting green with Woods on the eve of the tournament, helping him with his posture over putts. Woods made 27 birdies this week, one short of his personal best on the tour.
“Thank you to Steve for the putting lesson,” Woods said at the trophy presentation. “It was one of those weeks where I felt pretty good about how I was playing, made a few putts and got it rolling.”
Stricker, playing a part-time schedule, picked up his second runner-up finish in just three starts. He closed with a 68 and had no regrets about offering Woods some help.
“At times you kick yourself,” Stricker said with a laugh. “He’s a good friend. We talk a lot about putting. It’s good to see him playing well.”
The Masters is a month away, and Woods is sure to be the favorite.
Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world, showed signs of recovering from his rough start to the season. He had a 65 and tied for eighth.
Graeme McDowell, who started the final round four shots behind, made a birdie on the opening hole, but never got any closer. McDowell had third place to himself until he went for the green on the 18th hole and found the water. He made double bogey, shot 72 and fell into a four-way tie for third that cost him $172,500.
Phil Mickelson (71), Sergio Garcia (69) and Adam Scott (64) also tied for third.
Woods improved to 40-2 on the PGA Tour when he had the outright lead going into the final round, the last two wins with McDowell at his side. Woods last won while ahead at Bay Hill a year ago.
“The way Tiger was playing, I was always in chase mode,” McDowell said. “He was always going to be a tough guy to catch. Fair play to him. He played fantastic golf the last couple of days.”
Woods finished at 19-under 269 and earned $1.5 million in winning this World Golf Championship for the seventh time.
Puerto Rico Open
Brown’s late birdie gives him FIRst win: In Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Scott Brown made birdie on the 18th hole Sunday to go from a one-shot deficit to a one-shot victory in the Puerto Rico Open for his first PGA Tour title.
Brown closed with a 2-under 70. He earned a two-year exemption on tour and a spot in the PGA Championship.
Fabian Gomez of Argentina had a one-shot lead until he went over the green and into a bunker on his third shot, blasted out to 15 feet and missed the par putt. He closed with a 71 and tied for second with Jordan Spieth. The 19-year-old from Texas had a 67.