Story Highlights

  • Tiger Woods wins Bay Hill by five shots
  • Does this win mean Woods is "back?"
  • Should Ernie Els be given pass to Masters?

PGA Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods wins Bay Hill Invitational

Tiger Woods, final putt, 2012 Bay Hill
Carlos M. Saavedra / SI
Tiger Woods ended a 30-month winless drought on Sunday at Bay Hill.

Every Sunday night, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group conducts an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in our all-new live Readers' Confidential or in the comments section below.

TIGER WINS BAY HILL BY FIVE SHOTS
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: What impressed you most about Tiger's victory?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Definitely his putting. He made an all-world two-putt after getting into a bit of trouble on 10, and a great putt from about 15 feet to save par on 15, just like he used to in the old days.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It wasn't a great score, but he kept the pressure on all day. He hit a lot of good shots and forced McDowell to continually match him. Tiger had a lot of tap-in pars.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I thought Woods putted well all week. Nothing crazy, but solid on extremely fast greens. He also hit a lot of solid iron shots, and aside from the drive on 15 on Saturday, kept his ball in play. Overall, a nice B+ effort for four days, which has always been enough for TW to win.

Van Sickle: Tiger was in near complete control of his ball on the weekend. Just like old times. Great ballstriking, great shotmaking, great putting. It would be tough to make an argument that he isn't back.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: I also can't remember a week since he started working with Foley where he hit this many 3-wood stingers off the tee. That's going to serve him well at Augusta.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: And the British Open. I was most impressed that Tiger was so much better than the field. This was a blowout of old-school-Tiger proportions.

Van Sickle: If Tiger isn't playing, McDowell runs away with this thing. Instead, he's the B-Flight champ. Sound familiar? Tiger was a touchdown ahead of everyone else.

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Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: His margin of victory was most impressive, and on a HARD course.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Lag putting. Tiger made it look relatively easy. Just like old times.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The win is deeply impressive because he earned it on the practice tee, and it's hard to devote yourself to the practice tee when you're 36 and your kids need rides and the lawn needs mowing. He earned it. It wasn't smoke-and-mirrors. It was not like old times. It was totally different.

Hanger: I'll give you the kids' rides, but he's not mowing much of that lawn, which is actually his personal golf course. Still, point taken.

Shipnuck: I loved Tiger's demeanor. He seemed utterly in control all day, and even a couple of 50-footers from G-Mac early in the round couldn't change that.

Van Sickle: When McDowell holed that eagle putt on 6, it was hard to tell whether Tiger even noticed it go in. In the zone, for sure.

Ritter: Other than the new caddie and the goofy shoes, the whole scene felt a lot like something we saw frequently in 2007. Other than one three-putt, he was in total control on Sunday. Just like old times.

Mick Rouse, editorial assistant, SI Golf Group: Impressive performance all around by Tiger, especially with the putter. We've talked about Tiger not being able to close lately, but he never looked like he was going to falter today.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: I was impressed by his great iron play all week, and his ability to recover after a bogey (or the double on 15 Saturday). He made those key 5- to 15-foot putts to keep his momentum going or swing it back in his favor.

Van Sickle: Tiger is driving it straight. I can't point that out enough. That's a scary thought, given his shotmaking skills with his irons. Not only is he back, I think he's going to win multiple majors in the next few years.

Wei: Tiger is ranked No. 1 on Tour in total driving. He hit 57 of 72 greens this week (more like 65 if you count the fringe). Behind the 18th green, Foley said, "The sexiest long iron I've ever seen Tiger hit was the one on No. 6." (Yes, he really said "sexiest." It was a 3-iron.) It's scary to think what Tiger will do now that he's driving it on a string and finally has found some rhythm with his putting stroke.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: What impressed you most about Tiger's five-shot victory at Bay Hill?

IS TIGER NOW THE MAN TO BEAT?
Shipnuck: No doubt this week was a big step forward, but is Tiger really "back"? Is he now the guy to beat every time he tees it up?

Van Sickle: Tiger's biggest challenge will be to remain healthy. His ballstriking this week looked better than at any time since the Harmon years.

Gorant: Not quite. I certainly expect him to be in contention, but I can't quite expect him to win yet.

Herre: We'll see. This could be another incremental move. You have to keep in mind that Tiger won a higher percentage of events entered than any player in modern history -- by a mile. I don't know if he'll ever reach that pinnacle again. I'm not surprised at all that he won again. I will be surprised if he becomes the player he was 10 or 12 years ago.

Gorant: I don't know. It was a pretty dominant performance on a tough course, and you can see lots of room for improvement. He could distance himself again.

Van Sickle: He is the guy to beat, yes. If he'd slopped it around and won with his putting or something, maybe not, but he played dominant golf. He's the new favorite for Augusta now, and if he wins there, as I've said many times, 19 majors will be back in play and Tiger mania will vault to a new high.

Lipsey: In people's minds and player's minds, yes, Tiger is the man to beat.

Wei: I'm tired of the "is Tiger back or not?" storylines. He's back in the winner's circle, but he'll never be the same person/player he was pre-scandal. It's just not possible. Let's move on and focus on the fact that Tiger's playing well again.

Van Sickle: Personally, I don't know how much more obvious Tiger could've made it this week. He dominated, and now he's going to Augusta, where he finished fourth the last two years with no swing. Now he's playing his best in half a dozen years. I'm not easily swayed, but we've seen Tiger's steady progression since late last year. It was a process, Tiger said, and now the process is over. He's there. He's back.

Tell us what you think in the all-new readers' live Confidential or in the comments section below: Are you ready to say that Tiger is "back"?

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