Tiger is back on top

3/26/2013 - Golf Tiger Woods

After a dominating victory that was never really in doubt on Monday at Bay Hill, Tiger Woods notched his eighth title at the tournament hosted by golf legend Arnold Palmer.

So what's next for Woods? And which aspect of Tiger's game impressed the most? Our experts tackle those topics and more in a special edition of Four-Ball.

1. What most impressed you about Tiger Woods' win at Bay Hill?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Nothing. It was the same Tiger doing the same thing he does at Torrey Pines, Firestone and Doral. We didn't see any huge breakthrough in his driving. All he did was play a course he's comfortable and confident on, the way he normally does.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger putted well, again. He just looks like a player that is so much better than the field that he can win with his B game.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: His putting. He led the field in the tour's "strokes-gained putting'' statistic. On Saturday, he had 18 putts inside of 20 feet and made 17 of them. And there were numerous par saves throughout the tournament, the kind that save rounds. Woods has putted beautifully in these last two tournament victories.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior columnist: Everything. He had to win to move to No. 1 in the world -- and he did it. He had to beat a quality field -- and he did it. He had to deal with changing weather conditions and an extra day of play-- and he did it. He putted well. His short game was sharp. He forced others to chase him. It was vintage Tiger.

2. Granted, the Masters is still more than two weeks away, but if you have to decide right after the Bay Hill win -- Tiger or the field at Augusta National -- who are you taking?

Michael Collins: The field. You think Tiger can miss fairways like he has and win at Augusta? Yeah he'll get away with it a few times, but it's going to come back and bite him in the long run.

Farrell Evans: Tiger. There is nothing that could happen in Houston or San Antonio that would dissuade me from picking Tiger to win his fifth green jacket.

Bob Harig: The field. And it has nothing to do with timing. It's just too much to ask of one player -- even Tiger -- to take on the field. As we've seen with Woods, despite his four victories at Augusta, winning there is never guaranteed. And he's now going on eight years without a win at the Masters.

Gene Wojciechowski: The field has done well against Woods in recent years. Remember, he hasn't won there since 2005. But it's difficult to ignore the quality of his play right now. I'll take Woods vs. Everyone Else.

3. Which is a bigger deal: Woods regaining the No. 1 ranking, or if he were to tie Sam Snead's record for most victories?

Michael Collins: Tying Sam Snead's record for wins. If he was ranked No. 3 in the world and he broke Snead's record, would we start any conversation with, "No. 3 in the world … " Heck no! When he was No. 2 this year after he won at Doral, was anyone calling him No. 2?

Farrell Evans: To win 80-odd times is crazy phenomenal. There are more than a handful of former No. 1s who won't get into the Hall of Fame.

Bob Harig: The latter. Because it almost assures the former. Woods' spot atop the rankings could be fleeting, depending on how well Rory McIlroy performs. But if he gets five more wins in any reasonable amount of time to tie Snead, that No. 1 ranking will be there for quite awhile.

Gene Wojciechowski: Do you know how hard it is to win ONE tournament? Woods has won 77. The No. 1 ranking is a nice perk, but you don't get there without wins. Woods appreciates the history of the game, so Snead's record is the one with real meaning.

4. At the end of the week (post-Shell Houston Open) who's No. 1 in the world, Tiger or Rory?

Michael Collins: Rory. Just like when Luke had to win at Tampa last year to get his No. 1 ranking back, Rory is going to win this week in Houston and set up an anticipation for Augusta that we haven't seen since … last year.

Farrell Evans: Tiger. Rory will get style points in Houston for taking his dethroning with grace and class, but he won't regain No. 1.

Bob Harig:
Tiger. Rory is likely going to need a high finish in Houston to surpass Tiger, and aside from one meaningless final-round at Doral, we have yet to see that kind of sustained excellence this year. If he is anywhere close, however, it bodes well for an interesting Masters.

Gene Wojciechowski: Woods has found his game, while McIlroy is still searching for his. I'll take Woods.