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Woods had a one-shot lead over McDowell in the final round at Bay Hill last year and pulled away in conditions so firm, fast and scary that Woods referred to it as a U.S. Open that broke out in Orlando. Woods won by five.

They played the final 36 holes together at Doral, and McDowell gave him a good fight. Turns out it wasn’t a fair fight.

Woods had a solid command of his shots, and he putted as well as he has all year, thanks to that tip from Stricker. Woods made 61-of-64 putts inside 10 feet for the week on the Blue Monster. He missed only one putt inside 5 feet out of 52 chances.

The most significant putt by Woods came on the second hole, when McDowell stuffed his approach inside 7 feet and Woods matched him with an 18-foot birdie putt of his own. What won’t get as much attention is a stretch of holes early on the back nine, when Woods poured in a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 10th hole, and made tricky 5-foot par putts look easy on the 12th and 13th holes to keep his margin.

“I said in the press room last night, `He doesn’t look phenomenal, it just looks really, really good.’ And that probably came out wrong because what I mean is the golf courses don’t let you be phenomenal,” McDowell said, referring to Doral on Sunday and Bay Hill a year ago.

“You’ve got to be under control,” he said. “In this wind the last couple days, his ball flight control is pretty stunning, really. It’s pretty cool to watch. I thought his short game and putting the last couple days was very impressive. He cleaned up everything he had to clean up pretty much. It was good stuff.”

And how did Woods compare with the World Challenge at the end of 2010?

“He doesn’t have those off-the-radar balls anymore,” McDowell said. “In `10, `11 when I was playing with him, he would hit the odd shot where you would just of blink twice and go, `Really, that’s wide.’ He’s got the ball under control now. He knows exactly what his golf swing is going to produce.”

Despite the up-and-down results at the start of the year, the big picture indicates an upward trend for Woods.

He went the last six months of 2012 without winning anywhere, and he didn’t register consecutive top 10s until the FedEx Cup playoffs in September. Even so, Woods finished off that season with five straight finishes in the top 10.

Woods now has won more than half his PGA Tour events (40) on seven courses _ Torrey Pines, Firestone, Bay Hill, Cog Hill, Muirfield Village, Doral and Augusta National. All are considered tough courses, and most of those wins came against some of the strongest fields.

He has won five times in the last year _ the most of anyone in the world _ and all were on strong golf courses.

“I felt that toward the end of last year that I was heading that direction, where things were becoming better,” Woods said. “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 Sean (Foley) wants me to do. And lo and behold, I’ve had two really good weeks this year.”

The question now is where it will lead.

This was the eighth time in his career that Woods has won at least two PGA Tour events before the Masters. In six of the previous seven years, he went on to win a major.