Can Scheffler play any better than he did at Bay Hill?


Which version of Scottie Scheffler do you like better — the winner at Bay Hill in 2022 (left) or the one who dominated the API this year?

ORLANDO, Florida — The Arnold Palmer Invitational was a wonderfully competitive event through 54 holes, but not during Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill. In fact, this latest Signature Event on the PGA Tour was downright boring, and you can blame Scottie Scheffler for that.

Scheffler was just too good on a beautiful day, carding the low round of the tournament – a 6-under-par 66 that propelled him to a 72-hole total of 15-under 273. That was good for a five-shot advantage on runner-up Wyndham Clark, but Scheffler led by as many as seven before his last putt dropped.

With a $4 million payoff from a $20 million purse, Scheffler climbed from second to first in the FedEx Cup standings. He won for the seventh time on the PGA Tour and had the widest victory margin in the API since Tiger Woods in 2012.  Scheffler didn’t dwell on his good fortune, though.

“I just stayed in my own little space and tried to keep pushing,’’ he said.

The final 18 started with Scheffler and Shane Lowry tied for the lead at 9-under but the tie didn’t last for long.  Scheffler birdied No. 1, Lowry made bogey – a quick two-shot swing.  Lowry, who finished third,  also made bogey on the second hole and was never a contender again. In truth, no one was.

Scheffler won the API for the second time in three years, but his victories were much different.  He won the first in 2022 with a one-shot margin over joint runner-ups Billy Horschel, Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland and posted a 72-hole score of 283 – 10 shots higher than his latest win.

A month after his first win at Bay Hill Scheffler won the Masters. He’s playing better now.

“It would be borderline unfair if he started putting really good,’’ said Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion.  “I never want to wish ill on anybody, but if he starts putting positive each week he’s going to be really hard to beat.  He’s the best player in the world right now.’’

Rory McIlroy was impressed, too.

“Scottie has been super consistent week in and week out every time he tees it up,’’ said McIlroy.  “It’s incredible.’’

Luke Donald, a former world No. 1, echoed that to conclude his two-week stint on the NBC broadcast team.

“He was so, so consistent,’’ said Donald.  “The road to success has so many ups and downs in construction but there were no ups and downs for him today. He was in cruise control all the way.  He did everything well, and that’s not easy when you’re leading a golf tournament.’’

In his API title defense in 2023 Scheffler tied for fourth behind surprise winner Kurt Kitayama, who missed the cut in his own title defense this week.

Scheffler will be gunning for a much better showing next week at The Players Championship, the third event of the four-tournament Florida Swing.  It tees off on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra. Scheffler’s 2023 victory in The Players was his most recent victory until his blowout romp at Bay Hill on Sunday. The Players turns 50 years old this week and no player has been a repeat champion.