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Tiger Woods finds his comfort zone

He continues his comeback at Bay Hill, where he has won five times and is defending champion.

March 26, 2009|Josh Robbins

ORLANDO, FLA. — Tiger Woods sounded a bit like an artist Wednesday.

When painters or sculptors or songwriters are asked how they produced a masterpiece, they often can't explain exactly how they created their piece of work. And so it was when Woods was asked to describe why the golf course at Bay Hill suits his game.

"For some reason, I feel comfortable here each and every time I play," Woods said.

Even so, there will be plenty of question marks when Woods tees off on Bay Hill's first hole this afternoon and attempts to defend his Arnold Palmer Invitational title and win the event for the sixth time.

Has he knocked off the rust that built up during his eight-month absence from the PGA Tour after his U.S. Open win last June? Has he regained his touch around the greens after reconstructive surgery on his left knee?

Slowly, surely, he has seen progress. After losing in the second round in last month's Accenture Match Play Championship, he tied for ninth place at the CA Championship at Doral even though his putting stroke wasn't particularly sharp. He continued to hit the ball well at last week's Tavistock Cup at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club.

"To be honest with you, I think it's taken less time to get my feel back for the game," Woods said. "I thought it would take a little bit longer. The question mark was, to me, how many rounds could I play? How much golf could I play? Recovering from day to day, I didn't know.

"That's been probably the greatest positive. I've been able to recover from day to day and not feel a thing. Therefore, I can start working on my feel. And as I said at Doral, it came every day and got a little bit better and got a little bit sharper. You forget certain things, how you play shots and how you think yourself around the golf course."

Just over a year ago, Palmer was standing off of Bay Hill's 18th green when Woods sank a 24-foot birdie putt on his final hole of regulation to beat Bart Bryant by one stroke.

Woods ripped off his cap and threw it onto the green -- a celebration so spontaneous that he didn't even realize that he had done it until he watched the highlights on TV.

"It's so difficult to win out here, and any time you can win, you're obviously going to celebrate," Woods said. "You celebrate in different ways because they're all different."

The two top-ranked players in the field, Woods and Padraig Harrington, will be grouped with Mark Wilson for the first two rounds.

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jrobbins@orlandosentinel.com

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