Two out of three Aint Bad — Scheffler brought home his second tournament win this season at Arnie’s Tournament at Bay Hill.

Yesterday’s finish wrapped up the 6th Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard (API) since Arnie’s departure. He wasn’t sitting in a cart off the 16th tee watching players and greeting fans. However, his spirit is alive and well at Bay Hill, and this year’s tournament provided a challenge worthy of a King.

Started in 1966 at another location and under another name, the API made its debut at Bay Hill in 1979. Since then, the tournament has added “Arnold Palmer” to the title, joined the ranks as one of five Invitational tournaments on Tour, now holds Open Championship invitations for the three top-ten finishers not already exempt into that year’s Open, and in 2017 they began awarding a classic, red sweater to the winner as an homage to Mr. Palmer.

There were little surprises in the first round as conditions weren’t yet at apex pain. Rory McIlroy shot a 65 to take an early lead. By the time Rory set out for round two Friday afternoon, things had changed. Viktor Hovland, who is having a great year already with multiple victories around the globe, went out Friday morning and smiled his way to a second-round 66 for the lead at the halfway mark before the wind picked up and the course tightened. 

How much did things change throughout Friday? 

When Talor Gooch finished his second round, he told reporters, “I don’t want to go play again.” 

Rory followed his opening 65 with a second-round 72 Friday afternoon, and when a reporter asked him about Hovland’s 66 earlier in the day, Rory’s response was, “See how he does tomorrow.”

Sure enough, Hovland went off with the lead late Saturday and in conditions he hadn’t seen yet. Viktor later described the day as a “scrambling contest”. The Norwegian smiled a little less carding a third-round 75. Still, he was in the hunt on Sunday until his birdie attempt to tie the lead on the 72nd hole fell painstakingly short. Hovland finished tied for second. 

Shortly before Viktor’s putt, Scottie Scheffler two-putted from 60 feet to take the lead in the clubhouse at 5-under with only one group left on the course.

Watching Hovland and Scheffler from the 72nd fairway and sitting one-shot behind was 54-hole leader Billy Horschel. With a personal connection to Bay Hill and playing on native soil, the former Florida gator rolled his final 29-foot birdie putt past the hole, and he also had to settle for a T2 finish. 

Saturday is known as moving day, and Scottie Scheffler did just that. The young Texan tied for low-round on Saturday with a 68. This put him in position and gave him the confidence to shoot an even par 72 Sunday for his second win in his last three starts. With The Players this week and the Masters around the corner, Scottie is peaking at the right time.

Scheffler finished 2021 ranked 12th in the Official World Golf Rankings, and his recent play has moved him up to 5th. World no. 1, Jon Rahm, and Rory McIlroy finished T17 and T13 respectively, while Talor Gooch and Chris Kirk secured invitations to the 150th Open at St. Andrews thanks to their top-10 finishes. 

Next stop: Sawgrass. Stadium. Seventeen.

Bud Copeland

A self-taught stick with a hack brain, Bud grew up playing golf year-round in north Florida. Born-again New England, Bud learned what an “off-season” is. He now lives in Salem, MA with his wife, daughter, two cats, and dog, Miller. He is the sole Y chromosome in the house, believes we did land on the moon and strongly advocates for walk-up music on the first and eighteenth tees.