"He plays every shot like he plays them on Sunday," Rose said. "His intensity is the same on Thursday often as it is on Sunday, and that makes Sunday a lot less different for him. He plays in that kind of atmosphere far more regularly than a lot of guys do, and it's an adjustment for most of us. It's a known for him."
Fowler had to settle for a 73 and a tie for third with Mark Wilson (71), Keegan Bradley (71) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (72).
Rory McIlroy had been No. 1 since he won the PGA Championship last August. He can reclaim the No. 1 ranking by winning the Houston Open this week. Woods heads home to south Florida for two weeks before the Masters.
Asked the last time he felt this good going to Augusta National, Woods replied, "It's been a few years."
This was the fourth time in his career that he already had three PGA Tour wins before the Masters — he didn't win a green jacket in any of the previous years (2000, 2003 and 2008). More telling, perhaps, is that Woods has won back-to-back starts for the first time since the Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational in August 2009.
"I think it shows that my game is consistent," he said. "It's at a high level."
Woods finished at 13-under 275 and won for the 77th time on the PGA Tour, moving to within five of Snead's record.
Fowler, his first time playing with Woods in the final group, opened with eight pars when he needed to be making up ground. And when he finally had a few openings on the back nine, Woods refused to let him through.
Woods salvaged a two-putt par with a 7-footer on the 11th hole to keep a three-shot lead. On the next hole, Fowler looked to gain some momentum when he made a 40-foot birdie putt only for Woods to match him with that 25-foot birdie.
Woods produced some absurd statistics with the putter this week, making 19 of 28 putts from between 7 feet and 20 feet.
He walked off the green to share a handshake with Palmer, along with a big smile and some words that Woods said were best kept private. He left the course in that familiar blue blazer that goes to the winner.
And he left as the No. 1 player in the world.
It's the 11th time that Woods has gone back to No. 1, tied with Greg Norman since the ranking began in 1986. Still to be determined is how long Woods stays there this time.
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