FLORIDA (AFP): Scottie Scheffler was the last man standing at brutal Bay Hill on Sunday, firing an even par 72 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one stroke.
Scheffler’s five-under-par total of 283 was enough to notch his second win in three starts, after claiming his first US PGA Tour title at the Phoenix Open in February.
He had three birdies and three bogeys at wind-whipped Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida, and held steady coming in as the tough conditions, compounded by glassy greens and deep rough, saw his pursuers falter.
Former FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel started the day tied for the lead and had a chance to force a playoff at 18. But he couldn’t get his 29-foot birdie putt to drop and signed for a three-over par 75 that left him sharing second on 284.
Norway’s Viktor Hovland was tied for the lead after a birdie at 16 but bogeyed the par-three 17th from a greenside bunker and closed with a two-over 74 for 284. England’s Tyrrell Hatton was also in the group sharing second after an impressive three-under par 69.
Scheffler’s victory was a testament to perseverance, especially since he said his game was not that great.
“I did not swing the club well at all today off the tee,” Scheffler said. “I was hitting a lot of bad spots, but I just kept grinding. I made some key putts there towards the end and two great lag putts there to kind of finish off the round.”
Two adrift to start the round, Scheffler was one-over through nine holes after two birdies and three bogeys. He rolled in a five-foot birdie putt at the 12th to get back to five-under.
He drilled a 21-foot par-saving putt at the 15th, and a testing six-footer for par at 16. He two-putted from 46 feet at the par-three 17th and from 69 feet at the last to get into the clubhouse with the lead.
“I would say the pars on 17 and 18 were gut check time,” Scheffler said. “The finishing stretch here is so brutal — 15, 17, and 18 are such hard holes.”
Horschel was the only one who could catch him then. He had appeared to be out of it after four bogeys and a double bogey with just one birdie in his first 10 holes.
Birdies at the 12th and 15th had Horschel back in the hunt, but he couldn’t find another birdie in the last three holes.
Hovland, who started the day one back, opened with six straight pars before sticking his tee shot within two feet at the par-three seventh for birdie. Then followed back-to-back bogeys at eight and nine, a birdie at 11 and two more bogeys at 13 and 15 before a birdie at 16 saw him tied for the lead again.
He couldn’t maintain the pressure, however, dropping a shot at 17 when he was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker and he settled for par from the fringe at 18.
“I hit the ball beautifully at the start, just couldn’t make any putts to get the momentum going,” Hovland said, adding that the unpredicable wins made for a “guessing game” on the already demanding course.
“It’s just a patience test,” he said. “You’ve got to ultimately make some putts and have things go your way to win out here.”
Gary Woodland, seeking his first victory since his 2019 US Open triumph, leapt into the lead with a 24-foot eagle putt at the 16th.
But he needed two shots to get out of a greenside bunker on the way to a double-bogey at 17 and settled for a one-over 73 that left him tied with Chris Kirk (72) on 285.