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Tiger Woods wins WGC-Cadillac with eyes focused on the Masters

Tiger Woods chalked up his 76th PGA tour win. After the WGC-Cadillac win, Tiger Wood said, "Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good."

By Doug FergusonAssoicated Press / March 11, 2013

Tiger Woods tees off on the third hole during the last round of the Cadillac Championship golf tournament Sunday, March 10, 2013, in Doral, Fla. Woods won by two strokes - his 76th win on the PGA tour.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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Doral, Florida

Tiger Woods had gone more than three years without a World Golf Championship. He had no trouble remembering the drill.

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He sat at a table with the blue Gene Sarazen Cup trophy — he has six just like it at home — and signed a stack of flags for posterity and charity after a two-shot win that was never in question during the final two hours on the Blue Monster at Doral.

Woods entertained a few questions about his new 5-wood, how his performance stacked up with a four-shot win in January at Torrey Pines and whether he thought Rory McIlroy, now overlooked as the No. 1 player in the world, was on the right track.

"Can the Masters get here soon enough?" someone else asked.

It was the only question Woods ignored.

The Masters is a month away, and Woods hasn't looked this equipped to win another green jacket in five years.

A year ago, he hobbled off the Blue Monster and was driven away in a cart after 11 holes of the final round because of tightness in his left Achilles tendon, raising questions about his health and his immediate future.

Sunday he left Doral on his own terms and with a record that is starting to look familiar.

Woods delivered two quick birdies to end the suspense, and two late bogeys only made the Cadillac Championship look closer than it was. Woods never let anyone get closer than three shots until it no longer mattered. Despite a conservative bogey on the final hole, he closed with a 1-under 71 for a two-shot win over Steve Stricker.

He now has won five times in the last year, the most of anyone in the world.

He goes to Bay Hill in two weeks for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he is the defending champion, with a chance to go to No. 1 in the world.

And he stamped himself as the favorite at the Masters.

"That's how I know I can play," Woods said. "That's the thing. To be able to bring it out a couple times so far this year — and then be able to close and get the Ws on top of that — that's nice. Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good."

Just like Torrey Pines, it was a helpless feeling for those trying to catch him.

Graeme McDowell, who also played with Woods in the final group at Bay Hill last year, again tried to apply pressure early in the round with a two-putt birdie and a beautiful approach into 7 feet on the second hole. Woods, who had to scramble for par on the easy opening hole, sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the second.

"Graeme hits it in there stiff, I need to answer," Woods said. "It was important to make that, and basically continue it."

And that he did.

Woods hit a high cut with an 8-iron into 4 feet on the par-3 fourth hole, and he was on his way.

Stricker chipped in for birdie on the 13th hole and kept trying to make up ground until he ran out of chances, and ultimately ran out of holes. He had a 68 to finish second.

"His attitude and what I saw this week, and his belief in himself again, looks very similar to when he was in the early 2000s, or you can pick any year when he was playing great," Stricker said. "He just seems to be in a better place mentally."

Woods was in a better place on the putting green, and he can thank Stricker for that.

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