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2024 PGA Tour: Scottie Scheffler Triumphs at Arnold Palmer Invitational

2024 PGA Tour: Scottie Scheffler Triumphs at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Among the yardsticks of dominance at the 2024 PGA Tour’s iconic Arnold Palmer Invitational is the performance on the 15th Hole. Billed the second-toughest hole of Bay Hill, Scottie Scheffler showed on Sunday, March 10, why he emerged champion by birdieing the 483 yards, par 4 for the third consecutive time this week.

In golf, it boils down to putting, but the scrutiny is greater when Scheffler is on the greens, for here is a World No 1 who apparently struggles with the putter. Scheffler is aware of the talk and made a point or two by breaking clear for a five-shot win with a final score of 15-under 273.

Tied for the lead with Shane Lowry going into Sunday, Scheffler broke free in a way that made him proud. It wasn’t easy, but stepping up when the hour demands is what defines champions, and in Scheffler’s case the reason why he is the winningest player on the PGA Tour with seven titles since the 2021-22 season.

So much for a man who struggles on the greens. At 27, Scheffler donned the red sweater — a nod to Arnold Palmer‘s oft-favoured choice of attire — and for the second time after 2022, with a margin that hadn’t been matched since Tiger Woods’ triumph here in 2012.

What a buildup for the upcoming Players Championship, often termed the fifth Major, where Scheffler will tee off as defending champion.

Scottie Scheffler on his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on the 2024 PGA Tour

Scheffler has little time to reflect on the gains from the Arnold Palmer Invitational — the 700 FedExCup points, USD 4 million prize purse from the USD 20 million Signature event, the lowest 72-hole winning total since 2018, nor becoming the first player to shoot a score of 70 or lower on all four days.

But there is surely one bit that Scheffler will carry with him to TPC Sawgrass in the bid to become the first to defend The Players crown. That would be, shutting out the noise around his putting. For a man who likes to be in “his headspace” when the heat is on, the talk about his putting is like a shrill note, especially after the bogey-free effort on Sunday.

Scheffler said so in as many words. “There had been a lot of chatter about my game and the state of where it was at, and so it was nice to kind of come in here with a good mental attitude and to perform well under pressure and I think today’s (Sunday) round was really special for me going forward.”

This was coming from a competitor who believes in “keeping the mind as quiet as possible”, and also that he can putt well. There have been stretches when he struggled, but Scheffler has the experience to know that trying too hard doesn’t work. The key, as he showed himself at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, was not to let the misses get to him, but staying positive for those good putts to roll in.

Even the triumph on Sunday was put in perspective, as was the fact that he won after a gap of 12 months since the 2023 Players Championship. “I try not to place too much of my identity in what I do out on the golf course. There’s a whole other part of my life that is not in front of you guys (reporters) that I think is what’s most important to me. My life’s not a golf score, it’s not how many trophies I’m going to win, it’s not anything like that. I’m proud to have a great wife and a great family, and we have great friends at home and I’m very grateful for the other part of my life that’s away from the golf course.”

Worthy leaderboard

Arnold Palmer’s career was one of the defining phases in world golf, and his 62 wins on the PGA Tour is about the legacy Scottie Scheffler referred to when he said, “Mr Palmer meant a lot to us as professional golfers and the game of golf, and so it’s very special to be able to sit here and wear his red sweater again.”

It was only fitting that Sunday’s top leaderboard read like one in honour of a man of Palmer’s stature. As the 2022 Masters winner, Scheffler led the charts, followed by reigning US Open champion Wyndham Clark, who notched his second career runner-up on the PGA Tour to move to No 2 on the FedExCup standings.

Bay Hill hasn’t been a traditional ally for Clark, and going with the record a top-5 or top-10 would have been termed “huge”. Finishing runner-up and going into The Players Championship, Clark now understands “where [his] game is and how much [he has] grown”.

After running Scheffler close on Saturday as joint leader, 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry had a quiet Sunday with a 72, but the effort was good enough for a back-to-back top-5 finish. The regret of not putting Scheffler under pressure early on was unmistakable, but the Irishman did set right his awful record at Bay Hill.

Lowry, who was up there till 54 holes this time, had missed the cut four times and finished 67th last year, so to finish third was about bringing to use his experience of featuring in Major golf. “I’m used to playing Major championships and I’m used to playing tough golf courses, and you have to roll with the punches. You just have to keep going and keep fighting as hard as you can and see where it leaves you at the end of the day,” said Lowry.

A first at Bay Hill

The 10th Hole of Bay Hill is a sharp par-4 dogleg with a history of players playing it safe off the tee in order to avoid the awkward fairway bunkers.

Rory McIlroy came up with an astounding tee shot on Day 3, which gave an insight why he had six top-10s in nine starts at Bay Hill prior to the 2024 edition.

Not since the PGA Tour’s shot-tracking technology debuted in 2003 had this been done, but McIlroy showed up on Saturday and bombed a 356-yard drive from tee to green.

The 65-foot putt, the first of six birdies on the back-nine, culminated in a 6-under 30 and McIlroy tied the nine-hole scoring record at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The round of 68 left McIlroy within four shots off Scheffler and Lowry, and was an addition to his scoring record on the front-nine, also a 30, in the final round at the 2016 edition.

The woods (longer clubs) have been doing his bidding, and is the reason why McIlroy led the 2023 PGA Tour stats with an average driving distance of 326.3 yards. The problem is with the iron play, and if that can be tightened during The Players Championship, McIlroy can go much higher than the T21 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Asian presence

Two shots back going into Sunday, Hideki Matsuyama was just 18 holes from completing a treble that could have placed him in a rare league.

The PGA Tour has three player-hosted tournaments, and after winning Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament in 2014 and Tiger Woods’ Genesis Invitational last month, the Arnold Palmer Invitational was on Matsuyama’s radar.

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Despite a troublesome back, the Japanese hung on as joint leader for 36 holes, and the two-shot deficit going into Sunday meant very little for Matsuyama, considering he overcame a six-shot deficit to win the Genesis Invitational.

A repeat performance wasn’t on, and Matsuyama faded away with a 76 on Sunday to finish T12.

Asian hopes though, were kindled by the continuing resurgence of Byeong Hun An. Back as a better golfer in his latest stint on the PGA Tour after a gap, the Korean notched the third top-10 of the season. The closing 68 and a final score of 4-under 284 helped An jump from T31 to T8, and sets him up for The Players Championship.

“I think I’m feeling good right now, and if I make fewer mistakes, I think I can do well next week (The Players),” said An, who was fourth at The Sentry and lost in a playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii at the start of the year.

(Main image: David Cannon/ Getty Images; Featured image: PGA Tour/ Instagram)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Who won the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational?

Scottie Scheffler won the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, marking his seventh win on the PGA Tour.

– How much prize money did Scottie Scheffler win?

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is one of the eight Signature events on the PGA Tour that carries a total purse of USD 20 million and a winner’s cheque of USD 4 million.

– How many PGA Tour titles has Scottie Scheffler won?

At 27, Scottie Scheffler has accomplished seven wins on the PGA Tour so far — 2022 WM Phoenix Open, 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, 2022 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, 2022 Masters Tournament, 2023 WM Phoenix Open, 2023 PLAYERS Championship, 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.

– Who was the best Asian golfer at the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational?

Korea’s Byeong Hun An notched his 2024 PGA Tour season’s third top-10 with a final score of 4-under 284 for a T8 finish.

Source: Prestige Online

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