• WGC-Cadillac Championship, Round Four

Tiger sends out warning with dominant win

ESPN staff
March 10, 2013
Tiger Woods enjoyed that winning feeling yet again in his career at Doral © Getty Images

WGC-Cadillac Championship leaderboard

Tiger Woods ticked off the 98th victory of his professional career on Sunday, as he duly completed his domination of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.

Woods, a 14-time major champion, claimed the 17th World Golf Championship title of his career around the Blue Monster - eventually triumphing by two shots in a tournament he led from start to finish.

Beginning the day with a four-shot advantage, the American was only fleetingly threatened on his way to the winner's enclosure - as Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker all briefly alluded to a back nine challenge before eventually slipping away.

As others made progress against par - and then invariably handed some or all of those shots back - Woods maintained control of both his swing and the leaderboard, avoiding a bogey for much of the round as two early birdies (at the second and fourth) ensured his overnight cushion was more than maintained.

"I played well this week," Woods said at the presentation ceremony. "I felt good about the way I was playing, made some putts, and really just got rolling."

McDowell, in the final group with Woods, reduced the gap to three shots at the very first hole of the day with a birdie - but the Northern Irishman's hopes faded with a bogey at the fifth (and, later, at the 11th) as another final day battle with Woods failed to materialise.

In the end McDowell finished in third at 14-under after a final round of 72, one shot behind runner-up Stricker and tied with three other big names. A bogey at the last ensured Sergio Garcia finished in that tie, alongside the fast-finishing Adam Scott and Mickelson - who initially looked like he could pose a threat to Woods after a few early birdies, before a couple of mistakes saw him close with a 71.

Stricker was perhaps left to rue the putting lesson he had given to Woods on Wednesday, advising his friend to make a few adjustments that Woods would subsequently pinpoint for his improved form on the greens.

In truth, however, all aspects of Woods' game appeared to be on form - although a few wayward drives during his day were perhaps fortunate not to receive greater punishment.

After rolling in a long birdie putt at the second to get his day going, another three at the par-four fourth had Woods five shots ahead of the field. A run of five successive pars followed - some seeing birdie putts burn the edge, others requiring nerveless five-footers to avoid bogeys - before another regulation birdie at the par-five 10th continued his momentum.

With no-one emerging to pose a sustained challenge, the job from that point became about consolation - as Woods eschewed the riskier shots that could yield birdies in favour of high-percentage plays that offered more probable pars.

Another run of five straight pars duly followed; a run that was only snapped after a drive on the 16th that leaked into a bunker finally found Woods unable to find the green or get up-and-down.

That reduced his advantage to three strokes for the first time since the third hole, a lead he maintained going into the dangerous 18th after a regulation par at 17. A bogey at that water-lined hole would follow, but Woods had the shots in hand as he ultimately won by two - finishing things off with a five-footer that went right in the heart of the hole.

"Thank you to Steve for the putting lesson," Woods added jovially as he received his trophy.

A few hours ahead of the leaders, Rory McIlroy compiled a flawless round of 65 to suggest his troubles may well already be behind him.

The world No. 1, playing four rounds in an event for the first time in 2013, had five birdies and an eagle during his seven-under par round, getting to 10-under for the tournament and thus finish narrowly inside the top ten - alongside Justin Rose.

"There's been a significant improvement," McIlroy noted in the aftermath. "I found something."

He added: "Regardless of the score, I felt like I hit a lot of good shots over the last three days. I'm really happy with where my game is at compared to the start of the week. I still think there is a fair way to go ... but scores like that give me confidence.

"I'm excited for the next few weeks."

Elsewhere, Lee Westwood finished four-under, with Ian Poulter one shot further back and Luke Donald at one-over after a final round of 72.

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