Woods back on top of the world

Story highlights

Woods returns to No. 1 spot after two-and-a-half-year absence

Victory over Justin Rose takes Woods to joint record eighth win at same PGA event

Woods now starts 624th week at the top of world rankings

CNN  — 

Nearly two-and-a-half years after losing the title, Tiger Woods reclaimed the world No. 1 golf ranking when winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament on Monday.

The defending champion knew that only victory at Bay Hill would enable him to topple Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.

With thunder storms having pushed the final round of play in Florida into Monday, the 37-year-old defended the three-shot lead he held at the start of the day to finish 13 under par – two ahead of second-placed Justin Rose.

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“It has been a by-product of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments,” Woods said of regaining the coveted top spot.

As he tapped into the eighteenth, Woods became only the second golfer in history to win eight PGA titles at the same event – joining the legendary Sam Snead, who achieved his tally at the Greater Greensboro Open (now called the Wyndham Championship).

“I play well here – and that’s as simple as it gets,” Woods replied when asked the secret of his success at Bay Hill.

While Snead needed 27 years to mark up those victories, Woods took just 13 – nearly half the time – to achieve the feat, having also managed to win three other tournaments on seven different occasions.

The American’s form suggests he will be the man to beat at next month’s Masters at Augusta, the first major of the year – with many pundits awaiting his first major since 2008 to consider his comeback complete.

“That’s up to them – that’s their opinion,” said a relaxed Woods after his success. “I am very pleased with the way I am playing – and that’s enough for me.”

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The title, on one of his favorite courses, formally caps his return to the summit of golf – which he spectacularly fell off when reports of numerous marital infidelities emerged in late 2009, whereupon he took an indefinite break from the sport.

The following August, his divorce from his Swedish wife of six years, former model Elin Nordegren, who is the mother of his two children, was finalized.

In October 2010, six months after returning to golf with such poor form that he failed to win a single event in a season for the first time since turning professional, Woods lost his world best crown to Englishman Lee Westwood – ending a record run of 281 consecutive weeks at the top (which started in June 2005).

A combination of further poor form, added to injury, meant that a man who had once seemed invincible on the golf course dropped to a barely credible 58th place in November 2011.

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But 29 months after losing his crown, Woods is back on top for the eleventh time in his career – capping a fine month for both his game and private life, with the golfer having announced his relationship to skier Lindsey Vonn last week.

He will now start to add to the record 623 weeks he has spent on top of the golfing world, a tally which is nearly double that of his nearest rival, with Australian Greg Norman racking up 331 weeks, while no other player has broken the 100-week barrier.

The 2013 season may be in its infancy but the 14-time major winner has started in irrepressible form, winning three of his five tournaments – after triumphing at Doral earlier this month and at Torrey Pines in January.

His 77th PGA Tour victory also marked his 99th professional tournament win as Woods, who has won the Masters on four occasions, prepares his bid to wear the famous green jacket for the first time since 2005.