Woods closed with a 2-under 70 for a five-shot win over Graeme McDowell.
The question two weeks ago was when he could play again. Now, it's whether he can get back to player who once ruled golf.
Even though he won the unofficial Chevron World Challenge last December, this was meaningful for Woods a full tour event against a strong field, and a performance so clean that he was never seriously challenged on the back nine.
The final hole was a mere formality, and Woods tapped his putter on the ground waiting for his turn, knowing that after 30 months without a victory on the PGA Tour, he was about to win. He walked off the green with his arm extended, waving his cap to a raucous gallery.
"It does feel good. It feels really good," Woods said before signing his card. "It's been a lot of hard work."
Woods finished at 13-under 275 for his 72nd PGA Tour win, one short of Nicklaus for second place on the career list. But that's not the record Woods wants. He has 14 majors, four short of the Nicklaus standard, and he tries to end a four-year drought at the Masters, which starts April 5.
"I am excited, no doubt," Woods said. "I'm looking forward to the momentum I've built here."
It was the first time Woods had all four rounds under par since he returned from his personal crisis at the 2010 Masters.
McDowell made a 45-foot birdie putt and a 50-foot eagle putt early in the round to try to stay close, though he was never closer than two shots after starting with a double bogey. He closed with a 74.
In Saucier, Miss., Fred Couples made an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke victory over Michael Allen in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. Couples finished at 14-under 202, opening with a course-record 63, at Fallen Oak.
In Carlsbad, Calif., top-ranked Yani Tseng won the Kia Classic for her second straight LPGA Tour title and third in five events this year, closing with a 2-under 70 for a six-stroke victory. The 23-year-old Taiwanese star led wire-to-wire and finished at 14-under 274 on La Costa's Legends Course. South Korea's Sun Young Yoo had a 71 to finish second.