Scottie Scheffler successfully emerged from a golf tournament so attritional it was worthy of an X-rating. Rory McIlroy snapped a wedge in half. Adam Scott, the nicest man on the fairways, declined post-round media duties on the basis he had “nothing good to say”. Another of the world’s elite wandered around the Bay Hill car park, claiming to be “looking for the USGA sign”. This was indeed far more US Open than standard Tour stop.
Scheffler will care little about the backdrop. A fourth round of 72 secured the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one, at five under par, from Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Billy Horschel. There was contrasting emotion therein. Hatton’s 69 was superb. Hovland could fare no better than plus five over the weekend. “This stings,” Hovland admitted. Horschel watched a 30ft putt slide by on the 72nd green. If it had gone in, he would have forced extra holes.
Instead, Scheffler celebrated a second win within a month and three starts. A comfortable two-putt from 69ft on the final green emphasised the 25-year-old’s nerveless touch. So, too, did eight pars and a birdie on the back nine. Scheffler is the real deal.
The subplot relates to how much this brutal battle – caused by thick rough, a whipping breeze and baked greens – will affect the thoughts of players returning. “I’m glad I’m off that golf course, I’m glad I’m done,” said Gary Woodland, who shared fifth.
Golfers aren’t particularly of a mind to have their belief shattered immediately before the biggest non-major week of the year, at the Players Championship. McIlroy, whose temper had got the better of him at the 12th, admitted he was “venting” but believes course setup has to change.
“I feel punch drunk,” said McIlroy after a 76. “The weekend, it’s like crazy golf. You just don’t get rewarded for good shots. I’m hitting good shots. I’m swinging the club well. I’m chipping well. I’m putting well. But it can knock your confidence whenever the conditions are like this.
“I don’t mind golf courses being penal when you miss, but it’s not rewarding good shots. I think that’s where it starts to get across the line.”
Horschel and Talor Gooch had shared the 54-hole lead at six under par. Gooch’s 77 left him in a share of seventh but there was the consolation of a place in this summer’s Open on account of his Bay Hill performance.