ORLANDO, Fla. - Bay Hill is not the first chance for Tiger Woods to return to No. 1 in the world.
But it might be his best.
A victory this week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational would allow Woods to go back to No. 1 for the first time since the end of October in 2010.
Tiger Woods watches his putt on the third green during the pro-am of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods not only is the defending champion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he is a seven-time winner at Bay Hill. Not only does his game look sharp, Woods already has two victories this year, both of them with comfortable margins on the back nine at Torrey Pines and Doral.
His peers are paying attention.
"The one thing I don't think you give Tiger enough credit for is every time I see him tee it up, he hits it on the center of the bat - hits is solidly all the time," said injured Brandt Snedeker, who has done his viewing on television after sitting out the last five weeks.
Woods sank to as low as No. 58 in November 2011 before making a gradual return toward the top, getting a power boost last year by winning three times. He went to the PGA Championship with a chance to reach No. 1 by winning, but then he failed to convert a 36-hole share of the lead. Rory McIlroy won at Kiawah Island, and with three more wins the rest of the way, the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland appeared to be entrenched at No. 1 for some time.
As McIlroy has floundered this year, Woods has been charging.
Whether it happens this week is of little consequence to Woods. He has long said that winning takes care of everything, especially the No. 1 ranking. He's in no rush. But he is proud of his climb back to at least be in this position.
Woods clearly is the favorite at Bay Hill considering his track record, even though Arnie's place has thrown him a few curve balls. While he has won seven times, he has failed to crack the top 20 on five other occasions.
The forecast is for scattered thunderstorms throughout the week, making it unlikely that Bay Hill will be as crusty as it was last year. The field is the strongest of the year for regular PGA Tour events, even without McIlroy playing.
This is no longer Woods' home, having move to south Florida. But his memories at Bay Hill date to winning the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1991. He met Palmer for the first time. Woods played Bay Hill as an amateur (he missed the cut) and once played in the King's famous shootout game (Woods says he lost money). If that's not enough, both his children were born at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.
"This place and this tournament have a very special place in my heart," Woods said.
And this could be a special week, even though he looks at the big picture.
"To get back to No. 1, I've got to win this week - not too complicated," Woods said. "As far as getting back to No. 1 and all that entails, it's not easy to get there in the first place. I don't think people really realize how hard it is to become No. 1 in the world. But then to sustain it for a number of years is not easy, as well. It's about winning golf tournaments, and when you don't win, being in the top five and continue racking up points."