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Scottie Scheffler rolls hot putter to 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational win

ORLANDO – Scottie Scheffler punched a short-iron from 150 yards that climbed over the water and to the back of the 18th green and stopped 16 feet past the flag. Cheers from the grandstands and along the ropes for the gift the world No. 1 had presented to the spectators this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational reverberated throughout as a chorus of “Scott-ie! Scott-ie!” broke out. Basking in the late-afternoon sunshine, Scheffler made the champion’s walk on Sunday with an insurmountable lead and raised his putter, the new club in his bag that has been under great scrutiny, in triumph for the way it shined brightly for him this week.

“That was a heckuva round of golf,” said Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who played alongside him in the final pairing.

Scheffler, who switched from a blade to mallet putter this week, led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting in the final round, shooting a bogey-free 66 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge to win in a rout. It was shades of Tiger Woods, who won a record eight times at Arnie’s Place. Seeing Scheffler leading the field in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Around the Green has become old hat for the 27-year-old Texan, but when he ranks as one of the best putters it’s not a fair fight. In Tiger fashion, Scheffler cleaned up on the par-5s, combining to play those 16 holes in a total of 12 under and he played his final 25 holes without a bogey to claim a five-shot win over Wyndham Clark (70) with a 72-hole total of 15-under 273.

It was the largest margin of victory at Arnie’s Place since Woods won by five in 2012, and marked the second time Scheffler has won this tournament in the last three years. In doing so, he notched his seventh career Tour title and his first official win since the Players Championship nearly a year ago. (He did win the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December.)

“It would be borderline unfair if he starts putting really good,” said Clark. “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 (him).”

Lowry, who finished third, echoed the sentiment.

“There’s probably only a couple of players in the world that can live with him playing like that. Not sure I’m one of them,” said Lowry (72). “I was obviously just disappointed I didn’t put any pressure on him early.”

The big pre-tournament news of the week was that Scheffler inserted a TaylorMade Spider Tour X mallet putter into the bag. He’d ranked 144th in SG: Putting entering the week (after ranking 162nd last season), and the struggle continued in the opening round despite the club change. According to stats man Rick Gehman, Scheffler lost more than 1.5 strokes putting in a round for the seventh time in his first 20 rounds this season. When a reporter broached him about the putter change, Scheffler declined to offer an explanation.

“You know, man, I really need to go get some work in, if that’s all right,” he said.

Much was made about the emergency putting session that Rory McIlroy received after the first round from his putting coach Brad Faxon, which lifted his putting performance nearly from worst-to-first the next day. Scheffler’s post-round session on Thursday made a world of difference too.

“When I got to the practice range after, the discussion was not what are we going to fix. It was how well that I did,” Scheffler explained. “And that all goes back to the process that we’re working on and it’s not results-based.”

On Friday, Scheffler posted 5-under 67 to join a record-setting six-way tie at the top of the leaderboard after 36 holes. The lead group was whittled to two – Scheffler and Lowry, a sponsor invite – after 54 holes but after being a bunched board of big names, the final round wasn’t much of a contest as Scheffler rolled in a 13-foot birdie at the first and never relinquished the lead. He lobbed a pitch to 7 feet at No. 6 for another birdie and wedged to 8 feet at No. 10 and hit another short iron to 6 feet at No. 11 to open up a commanding lead. At 15 his early raise of the putter followed by fist-pumping after drilling a 35-foot birdie putt into the heart of the hole was Tigeresque. Scheffler recorded his best putting round on Tour since the second round of the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open.

“It’s super impressive, but we all knew that he had this in him,” McIlroy said. “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.”

The win was especially meaningful for Ted Scott, who has been on Scheffler’s bag for all of his victories and called it his favorite one after seeing what he termed too much emphasis on Scheffler’s shortcomings with the putter and not enough celebration of his other skills. Faxon, for one, noted on NBC that “We’re examining (Scheffler) like he’s going to the doctor’s office.”

“The noise gets so loud it can distract you,” Scott said.

In his previous caddie role, Scott worked for Bubba Watson and he recalled how after winning the Masters in 2012, Watson struggled to handle his new-found attention and his game suffered. “It was so noisy,” Scott said.

Then, Watson settled down and in 2014 won the Masters again.

“The key for Scottie being at the top of his game is how do you deal with all the noise and play with what’s inside his heart. He’s really special,” Scott said. “Maybe now we can talk about the best golfer in the world and enjoy his skills. He’s going to miss some more putts but this guy can putt and we saw it today.”

Source: Golfweek