Updated: March 13, 2013, 3:47 PM ET

Tiger Woods' wins come on familiar grounds

By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Fifty-three weeks after he relinquished the No. 1 ranking in the world for the first time in more than five years, Tiger Woods dropped to his lowest point since his early days as a professional.

Because of injuries, he had barely played in 2011, was a controversial captain's pick of Fred Couples for the U.S. Presidents Cup team, competed in just one tournament following a missed cut at the PGA Championship, and produced a mediocre tie for 30th at the Frys.com Open.

Woods was ranked 58th in the world.

It was easily explained away: He had missed so many tournaments, his ranking was bound to slip. He hadn't won in more than two years, the points from all of those 2009 victories disappearing.

Still, it was a bit jarring to see the player who had been at No. 1 longer than any other fall so far, so fast.

Almost exactly 16 months later, Woods is a strong No. 2 and in position to surpass Rory McIlroy for the top spot, depending on the results of the next several weeks. Woods has won five times in the past year on the PGA Tour, more than anybody in that span, and matched McIlroy's worldwide victory total during that period.

McIlroy won money titles on both the PGA Tour and European Tour last year and also captured a major championship. Undoubtedly, Woods' ability to claim a major in 2013 and snap a five-year drought in the game's biggest tournaments will be closely watched as the rest of this season unfolds.

In the aftermath of his victory Sunday at Doral, Woods' accomplishments and their relative arguments have been discussed in many ways, and there has been an interesting bit of reasoning: He's winning on courses he's won on previously; therefore his victories are not as impressive.

You could argue it either way, although it is hard to see his abundance of victories -- anywhere -- as a negative.

Woods' five victories in the past year indeed have come at courses where he had won previously: Bay Hill, Memorial, Congressional (AT&T National), Torrey Pines and Doral.

And it is true that 40 of Woods' 76 PGA Tour victories have come at seven courses: Torrey Pines (8), Firestone (7), Bay Hill (7), Muirfield Village (5), Cog Hill (5), Augusta National (4) and Doral (4).

At those venues alone, his victory total is just one fewer than that of Phil Mickelson, one more than Tom Watson, six more than Vijay Singh.

Aside from Cog Hill, which is no longer used for the BMW Championship, Woods has played or will play the other six venues in 2013, or about a third of his schedule. He's now in his 17th year on tour, and his schedule has always been tailored to the courses he likes. Is that a bad thing?

Most of the top players pick and choose their schedule based on venue. Mickelson plays a heavy West Coast schedule because he likes the courses. He won at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month; in fact, at each venue he played -- Humana, Torrey Pines, Phoenix, Pebble Beach, Riviera -- he had won previously. Of his 41 victories, 19 have come in West Coast events.

If it is so easy to win on courses you like, why don't defending champions win more often? Or, why doesn't Woods capture more tournaments on these very venues?

His win Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship was his first at Doral in six years. He has not won at Augusta National since 2005. He once went five appearances without winning at Muirfield Village. Six times, he's finished worse than 20th at Bay Hill. Two of the past three years, he's been worse than 37th at Firestone. Even Torrey Pines, a course he clearly loves, he tied for 44th in 2011 -- the only time he's been out of the top 10 there.

As successful as Woods has been at these courses, nothing is guaranteed. Showing up doesn't assure victory. Far from it. You have to bring some game, and Woods' performance at Doral was his most complete of the five victories since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But his win there a year ago didn't translate to a victory at the Masters; his tie for 40th there was his worst as a pro. His win at the Memorial didn't morph into a victory at the U.S. Open, where he held a share of the 36-hole lead. And his win at the AT&T National didn't push him to another victory at the Open Championship, although he tied for third.

Sure, there remain questions about his abilities in the majors; a big test comes up next month at Augusta National. Six of the seven times in his career that Woods has won twice prior to the Masters, he's won a major that season. It doesn't mean it will happen this year, but it doesn't hurt, either.

"I felt that towards the end of last year I was heading [in] that direction where things were becoming better," Woods said. "I look at the three venues that I won last year, were all three very good golf courses and I think winning at Torrey and then winning here [Doral], have been on some pretty tough tracks.

"That gave me so much confidence heading into the offseason that I was heading in the right direction. Just keep going, keep plugging along, keep working with the things that [swing coach] Sean [Foley] wants me to do, and lo and behold, I've had two really good weeks this year."

Job security

Scott Brown had no guarantee he'd be in this week's Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank. Having finished 148th on the PGA Tour money list in 2012, his status would be in question most weeks, hence he decided to play a full Web.com Tour schedule to try and play his way back to the PGA Tour.

He got in last week's event in Puerto Rico -- and won. And now his life has changed. Brown, 29, is fully exempt on the PGA Tour through 2015. That's how big it is to win a tournament, even one held opposite a World Golf Championship event.

"It's a relief," Brown said at Innisbrook, where he will play in this week's tournament, followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational a week later. "I know I can play out here. And now I've got job security."

Brown is a native of Augusta, Ga., and grew up less than 500 yards from Gate 6 of Augusta National. His grandfather has had badges for years, and Brown also attended numerous tournaments. He hasn't been to the year's first major in recent years.

His victory in Puerto Rico won't get him into the Masters, but Brown is OK with that.

"If I play well, that gets me in what I want to get in," he said. "It's now a freedom thing for me."