InsideGOLF delivers $50 in value for $20
Scottie Scheffler has now won twice in his last three starts.
If there’s one thing everyone agreed on entering the final round at Bay Hill, it’s that no one had any clue what was in store on Sunday.
And how would they? The first three rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational were filled with 54 holes of thick rough, fast greens, high winds, double bogeys and pros throwing putters into lakes.
Further proof that this tournament was completely up for grabs came from the final pairing, Billy Horschel and Talor Gooch, who entered the day tied for the lead at seven under. They played the front nine a combined 11 over.
There was never any clarity until Scottie Scheffler proved he wasn’t about to make a mistake. The 25-year-old won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, essentially winning a trophy for leaving Bay Hill with the least amount of bruises. As the contenders found bunkers and missed fairways and couldn’t get putts to drop during the final hour, Scheffler had the most boring round of all — but boring can win trophies, too. After shooting one over on the front, he made just one birdie and eights pars on the back for an even-par 72. Six of those pars came on the final six holes, a stretch in which his steadiness allowed him to stay on top as others sometimes flashed but more often faltered.
His five-under total was good for a one-stroke win over Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Horschel.
“I had my head down all day,” Scheffler said. “I kind of just tried to stay patient. I didn’t make any mistakes on the back nine.”
Scheffler, ranked 6th in the world, needed 71 starts on the PGA Tour to get his first victory, when he won the WM Phoenix Open on Feb 13. It took him two more starts to get his second.
Entering Sunday, Horschel and Gooch led Hovland by one, Scheffler by two and Gary Woodland by three, but Gooch played himself out of it by making two double bogeys and shooting seven-over 43 on the front. Horschel wasn’t much better, signing for 40.
A couple of hours later, it came down to a wild final few holes. And in the meantime, Hatton waited. Teeing off seven pairings before the final twosome, Hatton shot three under on the back to sign for 69 and take the clubhouse lead at four under. It almost turned out to be good enough.
Scheffler took the solo lead at five under when he rolled in a 22-footer to save par on 15, and Hovland made bogey. A few minutes later, Woodland erupted the gallery, draining a 24-footer for eagle on 16 to leapfrog the leaders and get to six under.
But, as was the trend for the day, it didn’t last. He chunked a shot out of the bunker on 17 and made double bogey, giving it all back.
Hovland birdied the par-5 16th to tie Scheffler at five under, but, just as the 17th bit Woodland, it got Hovland, too. He missed the green right and couldn’t get up and down from the sand, made bogey and dropped one off the pace. He needed to birdie the 18th to tie Scheffler but left his 16-foot putt short of the hole.
Scheffler, as he was all back nine, was solid. He got on the 18th green in regulation and two-putted from 69 feet to set the clubhouse lead at five under.
He finished first in Strokes Gained: Approach, and he was 17th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
“Kind of went into today thinking I need to shoot maybe a couple under, and it turns out even was good enough,” he said. “The way the greens are, making putts out here is so hard. There’s not a lot of friction on the greens, and with the way the wind is blowing, any little bit of a gust has such an extreme effect on the golf ball. It’s so difficult.”
Horschel, the co-54-hole leader, was the last player with a chance to catch Scheffler. He battled back after a rough start and needed to birdie 18 to force a playoff. He gave himself a 29-footer for birdie but missed it on the high side.
Scheffler, who was about to start hitting range balls to stay loose, heard Horschel missed, hugged caddie Ted Scott and celebrated another victory. He’s starting to get used to them.
Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GOLF.com and GOLF Magazine are published by EB GOLF MEDIA LLC, a division of 8AM GOLF