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

Henrik Stenson takes first-round lead at Bay Hill with eight-under 64

Woods, whose T2 at last week's Valspar saw him record his first runner up finish since he tied for second at The Barclays in 2013, has jumped from 666th to 149th in the World in a matter of 3 months, and last week recorded the fasted clubhead speed (129mph) of anyone in 2018. That means a $100 bet would net $600 in profit should Woods win this weekend. It's the only thing he hasn't accomplished so far.

Woods finished a shot behind Paul Casey in the Valspar Championship, just his fourth PGA Tour event since undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April 2017, his fourth back operation in the space of three years. He has made the cut here at Bay Hill in each of his last nine appearances while recording four top-25 finishes.

Whether it's due to the resurgence of Woods and Phil Mickelson, or the continued brilliance of the likes of Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm, or the fact that he's only teed it up twice this year, Jason Day has flown very much under the radar - despite looking as though he's back to his best after a hard 2017.

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.

The 42-year-old Woods had a long relationship with seven-times major victor Palmer, who died in September 2016 aged 87. "I try and get my work in and get out of it". I still got to go through the process of getting myself in position.

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Statistically, he's also exceeding all expectations and, according to the 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.

Just like he used to do when the pressure was on and it was a must-make to win the tournament.

"Unfortunately I just didn't quite feel as sharp as I needed to with my irons, played a little conservative because of it", Woods told reporters at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

"And so there's a process and an evolution to it and it's been quick, but still I have to say just to enjoy all of this, because at one point that wasn't even a thought. I didn't ever even think about playing out here". "This time he's physically fine and I'm seeing the normal Tiger". Playing with a different generation of team-mates as well, young guys like Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton would be really cool, to be able to span that time.

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