Tiger Woods held off Graeme McDowell to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and claim his first PGA Tour victory since September 2009.
The 14-times major winner held a one-shot lead going into the final day in Florida, but warmed up for the Masters by winning in relative comfort.
Woods carded a final-day two-under 70 to win from the Northern Irishman by five shots.
"It's been tough," said Woods. "But it feels really good."
England's Ian Poulter was third, his best finish of the year, but Ernie Els shot a 75 to miss out on Augusta.
Els needed to finish outright third or better to qualify for the Masters by climbing back into the world's top 50.
However, he had to settle for a seven-way tie for fourth place in a group including Englishman Brian Davis, who enjoyed one of his best Tour finishes.
Woods went over two years without a win anywhere following revelations about his private life before capturing the Chevron World Challenge in December.
"[Winning again] is down to a lot of hard work but it was great to have so much support out there," he said.
The 36-year-old pulled out of his last event two weeks ago with an Achilles tendon strain that initially seemed likely to threaten his participation at Augusta.
But, after completing the 98th victory of his professional career, Woods, who won his first major at the Masters in 1997, can now return to Augusta with a genuine chance of a fifth Green Jacket.
"I'm excited about the Masters," he said. "It's always fun to play there and I'm looking forward to going to Augusta with the momentum I've built here."
Chasing a seventh Bay Hill title, Woods' main rival was McDowell, who came from four back to beat him at the 2010 Chevron World Challenge in California.
Starting the day on 11 under, Woods again dropped a shot at the second, as he had done on Saturday. But he made up for it with birdies on the next two holes.
In contrast, McDowell ran up a double-bogey six at the second before the unexpected bonus of a 45-footer from the fringe of the third to get back to nine under.
McDowell then holed from 50 feet at the long sixth to reduce the lead to two. But, by the turn, the gap had grown to four as Woods birdied the difficult eighth after a brilliant approach over the water to two feet and McDowell missed a four-foot par putt at the next.
McDowell got the deficit back to three with a 23-foot putt on the 11th but took six on the 12th and though Woods bogeyed the short 14th, so did McDowell, and the gap remained four when Woods saved par with a 12-foot par putt on the next.
It stayed that way until the short 17th when McDowell overshot the green and made bogey.
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