The top four fields the PGA Tour saw in early 2022 were the Phoenix Open, Tournament of Champions, Genesis Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational. Scottie Scheffler has now won twice of those four championships after winning Sunday at Bay Hill by one stroke over Terrell Hutton, Victor Hovland and Billy Hurschel.
Scheffler shot 72 points on Sunday to finish 5 under this week in grueling conditions. The scoring average swelled in the final round to 75.5, but Schaeffler beat the field by more than three strokes over the last 18 holes by playing stealth-free golf on the nine backs. He also led the field in the hits he earned in close-kicks in the week, but it was his short game that saved him a few times from going home at the end. He made two 20 feet and got up six out of nine times in the rough Bay Hill to come out on top.
“It was amazing,” Scheffler said. “I trusted myself and [caddie Ted Scott] As much as I probably have on any tour. I didn’t swing the club very well at all today. I was hitting a lot of bad points, but I kept grinding. I did a few key shots at the end and two great lie hits to end the round.”
The most unusual of these came on the 15th hole as he made his way by car to the left and tried to cover a second around a tree but hardly made contact at all. Then he rose from 149 yards to save his quest to finish the championship. It’s his second win in his last three posts and leads him to #1 in the FedEx Cup standings and potentially in the top five in the world when the Players Championship begins next week.
Bay Hill scored the fourth best field of 2022, just behind Phoenix (also won by Schaeffler). These are the big wins that may not be majors but are definitely not your regular events on the PGA Tour.
Now Schaeffler has now racked up some victories that match the level he’s been playing at for a few years now. Statistically, Schaeffler plays like a top 20 player since the start of 2020. Until Phoenix a few weeks ago, he didn’t have any trophies to show. This is golf sometimes. Winning can be (and often is) random, but Schaeffler now has titles to match his talent, and as a result, he’s become a bona fide star on the PGA Tour. Grade: A +
Here are the rest of our scores for the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Victor Hovland (T2): I was convinced all day Sunday that Hovland was the man. He seemed to be the most in control of the week and the most ready to pounce at the end. However, it made him a ghost in three of his last six holes, which eventually drowned him. Paul Azinger pointed this out in the broadcast, but if you want to pin his runner-up to one side of his game, it’s a dungeon. He nearly finished last on the field in a sand save (3 of 13). The other side of it? You know, don’t hit him in the sand. This is very difficult when spikes are cut close to the edges as in Bay Hill, but a combination of smarter shots and a harrowing touch from bunkers will win this championship nine times out of 10. Grade: A-
Rory McIlroy (T13): After shooting 65 in the first round, McIlroy could have gone down three straight 72secs and won the championship by a margin of 2. He could only manage one before shooting 76-76 on the weekend when the field average was 74-75 To drop out of the top ten in this event for the first time in the past five years. His iron play looked phenomenal on Thursday but fizzled out the rest of the week, and his first week was in poor shape in 2022. Regardless, he didn’t look too frustrated after that, and next week he’s aiming for a second players championship. In his last three attempts.
“The way the conditions are going, it makes you feel like you’re not playing as well as you are,” McIlroy said. “Like, I’m playing well. I take good shots. I swing the club well. I swing well. I’m in good shape. But your confidence can bother you when the conditions are like that. I definitely play better than shooting 8″ Over the weekend. It’s just a matter of trying to regroup and forget about it this week, and next week will be a completely different test.” Grade: B +
John Ram (T17): Ram’s finish outside the top ten was his second in a row on the PGA Tour. This has only happened two more times since the 2020 Tour Championship, 18 months ago. This shows you what level he’s been playing at for the past two years. What to worry about as players (where they’ve competed before) get closer next week? His short match was shocking at Bay Hill. This was clearly symbolized by his 10-inch hit hit on Thursday. He should have been encouraged by his still-elite tee-to-green performance (2nd in approach, 5th in driving), allowing him to take some confidence in TPC Sawgrass despite the (for him) mediocre result in Orlando. B-grade