Scottie Scheffler Survives Brutal Bay Hill Sunday to Win Again
THEY usually make birdies and eagles for fun on the PGA Tour. But not at Bay Hill. The final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was all about survival, with Scottie Scheffler shooting a final round of 72 to win on one of the most challenging courses in America.
For many, it was a day of carnage. Rory McIlroy, who began the week with a sensational 65, finished with two rounds of 76 as he tumbled down the leaderboard to end in a tie for 13th. Talor Gooch, who began the day tied for the lead, required 43 blows to complete the front nine. Will Zalatoris, one of the most promising players on Tour, closed out with a 79, Scotland’s Martin Laird had an 80 and Troy Merritt an 87.
The only men to break 70 on this brutal layout were former champion Tyrrell Hatton, who showed a welcome return to form as he recorded a 69 and finished one shot behind the winner, and Australia’s Lucas Herbert, who closed with a 68. Hatton will be kicking himself - he opened with a 69, followed it with a 68 but played himself out of the tournament with 78 in the third round. Nevertheless, he will head to the Players Championship in buoyant mood.
And while all around him were losing their heads (and the plot), Scheffler picked up his second title, just three weeks after his maiden success at the WM Phoenix Open. Scheffler is known as a big hitter but he also proved that he knows how to adopt a strategic approach when faced with a “proper” golf course.
"It feels great, especially to win on such a difficult golf course and the way it finished,” said Scheffler, who is now set to move up to fifth in the world rankings.
"I didn't play my best stuff, I just kept grinding and made some key putts down the stretch, and it was really just a fight all day.
"I'm really proud of how I stayed patient, Teddy [Scott, Scheffler's caddie] did a good job of trying to keep me in it and it was a good result."
Billy Horschel was the last player with a shot at catching Scheffler but had to sink a 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole which never really had a chance. In the end, he shot 75 and tied for second along with Hatton (69) and Viktor Hovland (74).
Hovland was tied for the lead until catching a plugged lie in the front bunker on the 17th and having to two-putt from 50 feet on the fringe for bogey. Needing a birdie on the last hole to catch Scheffler, with whom he was playing alongside, the Norwegian missed from 18 feet.
Hatton, who won at Bay Hill two years ago, somehow managed seven birdies on a course that was baked and brittle, with greens running about 14 on the Stimpmeter and so few blades of grass that putts were sliding as much as they were rolling. He finished more than an hour ahead of the leaders, and it looked as though his score might be enough to at least force a play-off.
Scheffler was in deep trouble on the 15th, in the pine straw and behind a tree, when he tried to hit a punch hook up the fairway. The ball dribbled out into thick rough, but he did well to get his third onto the front of the green and then made a 20-footer for par.
On the par-five 16th, Scheffler caught a terrible break when his drive hopped out of the hand and into a lie so awkward in thick grass that he could not get it back to the fairway. Then, he had to lay up to avoid going into the water. He hit wedge to six feet and saved par.
His final two holes, not nearly as theatrical, were no less important. Scheffler two-putted from 45 feet, the ball coming within inches of going in, for par on the 17th. And from deep rough left of the 18th fairway, he got it onto the green to just inside 70 feet. That putt stopped inches away, leaving a tap-in par and ultimately a big win at Arnie's place.
The real heartbreak went to Gary Woodland, trying to win for the first time since the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2019. Steady all day, he surged into the lead with a shot from a sandy lie, around the trees and onto the green at the 16th, where he made a 25-foot eagle putt.
But on the 17th, he took two shots to get out of a front bunker and then missed a five-foot putt, taking double bogey. He found the left rough off the 18th and closed with a bogey for a 73 to finish in a tie for fifth with Chris Kirk.
Kirk was right there with a chance at five-under with a birdie on the 13th. He three-putted the 14th for the first of two straight birdies and closed with three pars for a 72.
The consolation prize for Kirk was earning one of three spots available for the Open Championship at St Andrews this summer. Gooch salvaged his rough start with a bogey-free back nine to finish in the top 10 and earn his spot in the Open.
McIlroy, meanwhile, endured a frustrating afternoon which was encapsulated by him snapping a club after a loose chip-shot on the 12th hole and is now turning his focus to the upcoming Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
"Three years in a row it's sort of been start off, lead the golf tournament, then you just sort of regress and come back to the field each and every day," McIlroy said. "It's frustrating, it's hard to keep your patience out there.
"I'm certainly playing better than shooting eight-over over the weekend. It's just a matter of trying to regroup and forget about this week, and next week's going to be a completely different test."
DP WORLD TOUR
ASHUN WU confirmed his position as the most successful Chinese golfer on the DP World Tour with a four-shot victory in Magical Kenya Open in Nairobi.
The 36-year-old entered the final day at Muthaiga Golf Club four shots off the lead but never looked back after making four birdies in a row from the seventh, signing for a closing 65 and a 16 under par total.
Canadian Aaron Cockerill, South African Thriston Lawrence and German Hurly Long finished four shots back but Wu's victory rarely looked in doubt on the back nine as he became the sixth different winner from a sixth different country on the 2022 DP World Tour.
Wu became the third Chinese winner in DP World Tour history when he won the 2015 Volvo China Open and since then has added wins in Austria and the Netherlands, with this win moving him two victories ahead of countryman Li Haotong.
A two-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour, he will move up to sixth on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex after triumphing in his 158th appearance with his wife and 13-week-old baby watching on in Nairobi.
"It's a big celebration, I'm so happy with my family here," he said.
"It's a very, very good feeling today to win a championship. It was very tough today, I played very, very well today and made seven birdies.
"After two rounds I told myself if I can make five under every day on the weekend and finish 15 under, I think I'll have a chance to win the tournament.
"Today I was four shots behind and still playing to my plan. Five under was my goal today and after ten holes I had a good feeling and I told myself I'll keep playing and make a couple of birdies and it's fine.
"My short game was good today also, I saved a couple of pars, my putting was good to make birdies on the 17th and 18th, I'm happy."
Lawrence birdied the first and third, made an eagle on the par-five fourth and then picked up a shot on the par-five seventh for the fourth time this week to get to 12 under.
Ewen Ferguson had started the day four shots clear but when he bogeyed the second and third he found himself in a tie with Lawrence, with Marcus Kinhult briefly joining the lead with a chip-in on the sixth.
A birdie at the par-five tenth moved Lawrence into the solo lead but the players were mounting up at 12 under and Wu was among them.
After bogeying the second, he took advantage of the fourth and seventh, holed a ten footer on the eighth and then made a sensational 35-foot triple-breaker on the ninth to join the lead.
Lawrence played a beautiful chip from over the back of the 14th but missed a short putt to drop a shot, with Wu moving two ahead thanks to a two-putt birdie on the tenth.
Long was playing alongside Lawrence and he had made a big move with birdies on the first, seventh and 11th and an eagle on the tenth.
Back-to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th looked to have derailed his challenge but he holed a 16-footer on the 15th and made a two-putt birdie on the par-five 18th to join his paying partner in signing for a 66 and finishing at 12 under.
Wu made a brilliant bunker save on the 14th to stay two ahead of the clubhouse leaders and Cockerill, who was the closest challenger on the course.
After making two birdies and two bogeys in his first seven holes, he birdied the eighth, eagled the tenth and then holed from 18 feet at the 11th to sit in the group in second.
He bogeyed the 16th but hit back from 12 feet on the next, although he could not make his birdie on the last, and Wu birdied the 17th from ten feet and got up and down from the sand on the last for another gain and a comfortable victory.
England's David Horsey was at 11 under after a 69, a shot clear of countryman Daniel Gavins and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon and two ahead of Ferguson, Kinhult, Adri Arnaus, Oliver Bekker and Stuart Manley.
World No 1 Jin-Young Ko made five birdies in the last six holes to beat Jeong-Eun Lee and overnight leader In-Gee Chun at the final hole and win the HSBC Women's World Championship title at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore on Sunday.
A birdie at the 18th gave Ko the title for the first time by two shots as former US Open winner Lee, joint leader going down the last, imploded around the final green.
Ko rolled in her third shot at the par-four from 12 feet to move to 17-under par while Lee's double-bogey left her three shots behind the winner with Chun taking joint-second alongside Lee Min-jee.
"I played well today, but it's tough to go round playing with two amazing Korean players. We're close friends," said Ko, who has won six of the last 10 LPGA events.
"I had a lot more confidence on the back nine than on the front nine, so I got a lot of birdies on the back nine."
Overnight leader Chun claimed a birdie at the second to extend her early advantage, but she was soon left trailing as those around her picked up the pace.
However, she pulled to within a shot of the leaders with a birdie at the 13th and another at the 16th left her a shot behind the leaders.
Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul put herself in contention with five birdies in the opening seven holes before a bogey at the penultimate hole wrecked her chances of the title, with the teenager eventually finishing in a tie for fourth on 14-under.
Ko, meanwhile, had birdied the eighth and ninth to stay in the hunt, but a dropped shot at the 12th looked to have halted her progress.
But birdies at the 13th and 14th holes were followed by another at the par-three 15th when she sent her tee shot through the green, only to roll her putt from well off the edge in for a birdie from 25 feet.
That hauled the 26-year-old back into contention and an eight-foot putt at the 16th gave Ko a fourth consecutive birdie to move into a share of the lead.
With the pressure mounting, Jeong-Eun Lee endured a horrendous time around the final green, over-hitting a bunker shot off the other side of the putting surface and taking another three strokes to hole out.
That left Ko to roll in yet another birdie putt to win by two strokes.
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