Golf roundup: Scottie Scheffler gets putter going to rout field at Arnold Palmer Invitational

AP photo by John Raoux / Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie putt on the 15th green at Bay Hill Club during the final round of the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday in Orlando, Fla.
AP photo by John Raoux / Scottie Scheffler celebrates after a birdie putt on the 15th green at Bay Hill Club during the final round of the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Scottie Scheffler figured the simple solution to his putting struggles was to quit trying so hard.

That's what he did at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and it wasn't a fair fight.

The best player on the planet from tee to green, Scheffler didn't miss a putt inside 15 feet on the weekend. On a tough Sunday at Bay Hill Club, he played bogey free in the final group and closed with a 6-under-par 66, by two shots the best score of the final round.

The result was a five-stroke victory, the largest at Bay Hill since Tiger Woods in 2012, as Scheffler finished the 72-hole tournament at 15-under 273 and won $4 million from the $20 million purse of this PGA Tour signature event. It was his seventh career win, all against some of the strongest fields.

And it came just days before he begins his bid to repeat at The Players Championship, which had been his last official win on tour.

"It would be borderline unfair if he starts putting really good," 2023 U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark said after finishing second Sunday with a closing 70. "I never want to wish ill on anybody, but if he starts putting positive each week, it's going to be really hard to beat."

The positive was in reference to the "strokes gained" statistic, regarded as the most accurate measure of success on the greens. Scheffler usually is on the negative side, and never in more glaring fashion than at the Memorial Tournament last year. He lost 8.5 shots to the field in putting and missed a playoff by one shot.

"His ball striking is, honestly, on another level compared to everyone else right now," said Rory McIlroy, who is currently No. 2 to Scheffler in the Official World Golf Ranking. "We knew if he started to hole putts, then this sort of stuff would happen."

Scheffler holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the opening hole of his final round, built a three-shot lead at the turn, then poured it on as the competition was simply trying to survive Bay Hill. After making a 35-foot birdie on the 15th hole, Scheffler let out a yell with a light fist pump.

"Part of the problem is just trying too hard," he said. "It's frustrating to not have the best of myself, just because I know that I can putt really well. It's not like I've been a bad putter my whole career. I've just gone through a stretch where it's been tough.

"I think this week I did a really good job of not letting the misses get to me."

Scheffler switched to a mallet model for his putter at Bay Hill, but far more important was keeping quiet between the ears, thinking more about the stroke than the outcome.

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

"He showed today why he's world No. 1," said Ireland's Shane Lowry, who started the day tied for the lead and never had a chance.

Lowry finished with three birdies and seven pars over the last 10 holes for a 72 to finish third at 9 under, while Russell Henley and Will Zalatoris each had a 72 and tied for fourth at 7 under. Zalatoris secured a spot in the British Open for having the lowest score among players not already exempt.

Harris English closed with a 77 to share 21st place at 1 under, which was the best finish among three Baylor School graduates in the tournament as Stephan Jaeger (76) tied for 44th at 3 over and Luke List (79) placed 56th at 10 over.

  photo  AP photo by John Raoux / Scottie Scheffler holds the championship trophy after winning the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday at Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla.

Going to TPC

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — Brice Garnett holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole to win the Puerto Rico Open in his first tournament of the year, sending him to The Players Championship that starts Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and giving him PGA Tour status for the next three years.

Garnett closed with a 3-under 69 at Grand Reserve Golf Club, getting back in the game with consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th and then saving par on the 18th in regulation. Erik Barnes closed with a 68, also saving par on the 18th.

They finished 72 holes at 19-under 269, and both had their chances in the playoff, each time on the 630-yard closing hole. Garnett missed a 12-foot birdie putt for the win on the first extra hole. Barnes holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, with Garnett matching him from six feet. Barnes narrowly missed from 12 feet after Garnett's birdie on the fourth playoff hole.

Garnett won in the Dominican Republic in 2018 for his only PGA Tour victory, but he fell outside the top 150 last year and was reduced to having low status as a past champion.

Given this year of signature events and high stakes on the PGA Tour, this was the first tournament that had room for him — because it was held opposite the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He also earned a spot at the PGA Championship in May.

"It's huge," he said. "I was so excited for the opportunity to compete out here again. I get three more years on this tour, some events I get in. There was really a lot of unknowns this year."

Jimmy Stanger (70) tied for third at 18 under with Hayden Springer (68) and France's Victor Perez (65).

  photo  LIV Golf photo by Chris Trotman via AP / Abraham Ancer hits a shot on the ninth hole of the LIV Golf League's Hong Kong tournament Sunday.

Ancer via playoff

HONG KONG — Mexico's Abraham Ancer regained just enough of the composure that helped him pull out to a five-stroke lead after two rounds to beat England's Paul Casey and Australia's Cameron Smith in a playoff and win the LIV Golf League's first Hong Kong tournament.

Ancer's comfortable lead at the start of the final round gradually disappeared as he struggled to keep pace with the chasing pack after a 2-over 72.

Casey's 64, which led his Crushers GC to the team title, pulled him even with Ancer as Smith closed out a 66 to secure a place in the playoff with the trio finishing at 13-under 197 after 54 regulation holes.

With heavy rain falling, Ancer rediscovered his touch to find the fairway with his opening drive of the first playoff hole on the 18th, while Casey and Smith pushed theirs right and left, respectively. His spectacular approach shot set up a short birdie putt that he converted, while Casey and Smith both finished with bogeys.

"I made that so hard on myself," Ancer said. "The ball striking wasn't there, but mentally I was really strong, so I felt really good, I felt like I was not going to give up."

  photo  Xinhua photo by Yang Guanyu via AP / Bailey Tardy kisses her trophy after winning the Blue Bay LPGA tournament Sunday in Lingshui on China's southern island of Hainan.

Tardy's arrival

SANYA, China — Former University of Georgia golfer Bailey Tardy picked up her first victory on the LPGA Tour, shooting a 7-under 65 at the LPGA Blue Bay tournament to win by four strokes over fellow American player Sarah Schmelzel.

Tardy, a 27-year-old Atlanta-area native, finished the 72-hole event at 19-under 269. Schmelzel closed with a 69 and held on to solo second as Japan's Ayaka Furue (65) took third.

Tardy had the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Women's Open last year but couldn't follow through.

"I mean, a lot of emotions right now," Tardy said Sunday. "A lot of hard work and just a lot of doubt that was in my head that I could be at this level and win. This is special."

First in a while

EDENVALE, South Africa — Matteo Manassero broke through with his first win on the DP World Tour in nearly 11 years, with the 30-year-old Italian shooting a 6-under 66 after a storm delay for a three-stroke victory at the Jonsson Workwear Open.

Once a prodigy on the Europe-based circuit, he picked up his fifth career win on the tour by making birdies on each of his last four holes to finish at 26-under 262 for 72 holes.

England's Jordan Smith (68) and South African players Thriston Lawrence (63) and Shaun Norris (68) shared second place.

Manassero became the European tour's youngest winner at the age of 17 years and 188 days at the 2010 Castelló Masters Costa Azahar. He won four times in a three-year stretch to start his career, including the 2013 BMW PGA Championship, the tour's flagship event.

Durant's gain

TUCSON, Ariz. — Joe Durant took advantage of Stewart Cink's back-nine meltdown to win the Cologuard Classic for his fifth PGA Tour Champions victory, closing with a 4-under 67 to beat Steven Alker (65), Jerry Kelly (67) and Kevin Sutherland (68) by two strokes.

The 59-year-old Durant rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 10th with an eagle on the par-5 11th and parred the final seven holes. He finished at 13-under 200 in the 54-hole event at La Paloma Country Club.

The 50-year-old Cink, two strokes ahead after rounds of 62 and 69 in his sixth start on the senior circuit, played a four-hole stretch in 5 over, making a triple bogey on par-4 13th and bogeys on the par-4 15th and par-5 16th on his way to a 73 and a tie for seventh at 9 under.

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