5th straight international winner at Bay Hill, the longest active streak for any event on the PGA Tour. Valspar can tie in a couple weeks - they have had 4 in a row.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) March 8, 2020
Tyrrell Hatton, battling some of the best players in the world and the toughest course of the year, won the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday with a 2-over 74 that probably felt like a 12-under 60 given the circumstances.
Scores again swelled in Round 4 at Bay Hill with the field shooting an average score of 75, which Hatton narrowly clipped for the one-stroke win over runner-up Marc Leishman. It didn't start great on either side of the course for Hatton, who bogeyed two of the first five holes before evening out a 36 on the front side with two closing birdies.
He went to the back still very much in control, but then the 11th hole came up and bit him. He made a double-bogey that included -- by my count -- a water ball, a kicking of the ground, a middle finger to the water and a faux shotgun blast over the lake with one of his irons. Nothing out of the ordinary for Hatton.
He bounced back with seven straight pars coming home, and that was enough (barely) over Leishman. His 4-under 284 total was extremely high for a winner on the PGA Tour, but you don't have to shoot a specific score, you just have to take fewer strokes than everybody else.
"It's hard to explain. It's an incredible feeling," Hatton told Golf Channel about the win. "It was such a tough day today. It felt like I was playing myself out a little bit when I made double at 11. ... To hold on and win here, it's such an iconic venue. I'm over the moon."
Hatton is easy to poke fun at. He's very English and very irritable. But he's a really good player, and he stood his ground when things were swirling sideways on No. 11. That's tough to do in good conditions, much less the ones golfers were playing in on Sunday. It's an improbable way for someone who embodies chaos like Hatton to win a tournament, which makes it that much more impressive.
The win is his first on the PGA Tour and his first of 2020 after a long layoff following wrist surgery in the fall. It likely locks his spot on the 2020 European Ryder Cup team, where his tee-to-green play will be welcomed into the team room and his candor will be welcomed by the American fans at Whistling Straits.
With that, we head into the first monster of 2020: next week's Players Championship. After two straight weeks of carnage, TPC Sawgrass likely won't provide a reprieve, and Sunday's champion Hatton will likely be a contender there after his impressive, gutsy win at Bay Hill. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rory McIlroy (T5): It was McIlroy's tournament for the taking, and he didn't take it on the weekend. After a hard-fought (and impressive) 73 on Saturday, he faltered in a big way on Sunday with a 76 that took him out of the event before he hit the back nine. The mistakes were avoidable, too. A double on No. 6 after a 345-yard drive. A double on No. 9 after hitting a ball out of bounds off the tee. He didn't putt all that well this week, which is fine, but when his ball-striking went a little south in the final two rounds, it took away his chance of winning the tournament. Still, that's seven straight top-five finishes. Grade: B+
Brooks Koepka (T47): It was another mediocre event for Koepka, who shot 81 (!!) on Saturday and finished 49th in the field from tee to green. He's clearly frustrated with his game, even if these aren't major championships he's struggling at. When he was asked how he played on Sunday while shooting a 1-under 71 compared to the 81 on Saturday, his answer was both telling and true.
"Still s***," he said. "Still s***. Putting better."
The course (N/A): Can I have a moment here?! Bay Hill was spectacular this week, and for the second straight week, we got an absolute bloodbath down the stretch. Fast and firm golf in windy conditions reveals the very best of all the ball-strikers, and I ride with Matthew Fitzpatrick.
"I can't think of anywhere else that was sort of played like as hard as this, really," said Fitzpatrick. " ... I'm all for it like this. Like, I would so much rather play it like this every week where it's a battle and you got to go work hard and grind instead of wide-open fairways, no wind and just, 65, you move down ..." Grade: A++