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Scheffler, with hot putter, demolishes field at Bay Hill

Scheffler, with hot putter, demolishes field at Bay Hill

ORLANDO, Fla. — Scottie Scheffler became the No. 1 player in golf with his sublime tee-to-green game. He got hot with the putter Sunday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and was simply unstoppable.

Scheffler made every important putt to build a three-shot lead at the turn and then poured it on with a game so complete he closed with a bogey-free, 6-under 66 — the lowest score by two shots at Bay Hill in the final round — while playing in the last group.

He wound up winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five shots, the largest margin at Bay Hill since Tiger Woods in 2012. And it came a week before Scheffler defends his title at The Players Championship, which had been his last official PGA Tour win.

Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard - Final Round
Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard - Final Round

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All that held him back over the last year was the putter. Scheffler switched to a mallet model this week, but far more important was keeping quiet between the ears, thinking more about the stroke than the outcome.

Both were superb. He made every putt inside 15 feet on the weekend to win at Bay Hill for the second time in three years.

U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark did the best at trying to stay close, and he was two shots behind through eight holes. But it all turned so quickly. Clark drove into the rough and made bogey on the ninth hole and then didn’t make another birdie until the par-5 16th. He shot 70.

Scheffler made a pair of birdie putts in the 7-foot range to start the back nine, and then he showed more emotion than usual with a 35-foot birdie on the 15th that turned the final round into a runaway.

Scheffler now has seven PGA Tour titles, all against some of the strongest fields. He picked up $4 million for winning this signature event. Scheffler finished at 15-under 273.

Clark birdied the 18th for a reasonable consolation prize. He earned $2.2 million as the runner-up.

Shane Lowry, the former Open champion who started the final round tied with Scheffler, was off his game from the start. He had three bogeys in seven holes and played the final 10 holes without a bogey for a 72 to finish alone in third.

Russell Henley and Will Zalatoris each had a 72 and tied for fourth. Zalatoris secured a spot in The Open for having the lowest score among players not already exempt.

Scheffler opened with a 12-foot birdie and no one caught him the rest of the day.

“I just stayed in my own little space and tried to keep pushing,” Scheffler said.

His lead atop the world ranking got even larger over Rory McIlroy, who had a mathematical chance to overtake him this week. McIlroy started the final round four shots behind and promptly shot 41 on the front nine. He shot 76 and tied for 21st.

“This is a super tough golf course and to be 6 under today going out with the lead and just sort of lapping the field is super impressive,” McIlroy said. “But we all knew that he had this in him. His ball-striking is, honestly, on another level compared to everyone else right now.

“We knew if he started to hole putts, then this sort of stuff would happen.”

This should at least stop questions about Scheffler’s putting. He led the field in the most vital putting statistic on Sunday and ranked fifth for the week. This came after he indicated earlier in the week how much the constant questions were grating on him.

“If I get asked constantly about putting, sometimes it feels like I’m not playing well. But I’m playing pretty darn good,” he said on Monday while at the TPC Sawgrass.