Arnold Palmer Invitational: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy star at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods crosses a bridge to the 16th green during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando Fla. Woods keeps looking better and shot a 68 Thursday

Tiger Woods crosses a bridge to the 16th green during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando Fla. Woods keeps looking better and shot a 68 Thursday

Statistically, he's also exceeding all expectations, and according to Golf Channel's resident statistician, he's now one of just four players ranked in the top 30 this season on the PGA Tour in both strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained putting, the others being Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren and Phil Mickelson.

So the "winning time" reference at that moment never was realistic.

Momentum is everything in golf and Tiger Woods will arrive at Bay Hill for this week's Arnold Palmer Invitational like a runaway train following his stunning return to the game this year.

Woods showed some of the golfing brilliance that saw him win 79 Tour titles and more than $350m in prize money. It's the only thing he hasn't accomplished so far. Even when he was clearly struggling physically, he'd always talk about how he still felt a win - a "W" as he always put it - was a possibility bit, but now he's trying not to heap too much pressure on himself and rightly so.

Considering his clubhead speed measured 129.2 miles per hour on Saturday - the fastest swing recorded on the PGA Tour this season - he can't just play, he also appears to be able to hit the ball as hard as he likes.

"Just keep getting better", replied the 14-time major victor when asked about his expectations for this week, which he starts in the company of Australian Jason Day and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama in the opening two rounds.

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Whether Woods likes it or not, his progressing performances early this season has led us to this: Anything short of a win this week will be considered a disappointment.

Englishman Paul Casey surged to victory at the Valspar Championship in Florida on Sunday as Tiger Woods came tantalisingly close to ending his five-year drought. Woods has won the event a stunning eight times.

Woods has a long history of success at Bay Hill, a course that clearly suits his style of play, but it's worth taking a look at the guys right behind him on the power rankings. "There was a lot of dark times where I couldn't get out of bed, couldn't move, the pain was too great". I still got to go through the process of getting myself in position.

"It's fine margins on golf courses like this and I was just on the wrong side of those margins the last couple weeks", he said.

"I hadn't played there in a couple of years because of my back, and I wanted to play there a couple of years ago..."

"It's a story that the world is finding very compelling and. that's what you want as a business", PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told CNN. "Just keep making incremental improvements and I think I've done that", he said.

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