Rory McIlroy is looking ahead to the Masters with confidence after ending an 18-month wait for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Northern Irishman shot a superb final-round 64 at Bay Hill on Sunday to top a high-quality leaderboard by three shots.
The 28-year-old struggled for form and fitness during a difficult 2017 but he is now in good shape ahead of the first major of the year at Augusta, which begins in just over a fortnight.
“It’s huge for my confidence going into the next few weeks,” said McIlroy, who climbed back up to seventh from 13 in the world rankings following his victory.
“I kept saying I didn’t need a win going into Augusta to feel like I had a chance – I just wanted to see signs of good golf – but thankfully I’ve been able to get both here.”
McIlroy now appears settled after a hectic period in his life which also saw him get married, move house and change equipment supplier and caddie.
He never had any doubt that he could get back to his best.
Speaking at a press conference, McIlroy said: “I’ve always believed in myself and I know that me being 100% healthy is good enough to not just win on the PGA Tour but win a lot. I guess that’s what kept me going.
“I never lost belief. I know that I’ve got a gift for this game and I know that if I put the time in I can make a lot of it.”
McIlroy finished on 18 under par after five birdies on his final six holes. That run was enough to see off the challenge of Bryson DeChambeu, who ended on 15 under.
Justin Rose (-14) and Henrik Stenson (-13) also impressed but it was another fine performance from Tiger Woods that commanded most of the attention.
The former world number one and 14-time major winner put himself into contention on the final day before eventually having to settle for a 69 and a tie for fifth.
Coming a week after his joint-second at the Valspar Championship, it was another strong showing by the 42-year-old ahead of his first appearance at Augusta in three years.
The four-time Masters winner said: “If you had told me at the beginning of the year if I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments I would have taken that in a heartbeat.
“If I can play with no pain and I can feel like I can make golf swings I’ll figure it out. I’m starting to piece it together tournament by tournament and each tournament’s got a little crisper and a little bit better.
“I’m looking forward to it (the Masters). I miss playing there. I’ve had a lot of success there, too, so I’m really looking forward to getting up there and doing a bit of work and getting a feel for the golf course, and basically the feel for playing that style of golf again.”