Tyrrell Hatton went from losing his mind to winning the tournament.
Bay Hill served up the most demanding test this side of a major, and Hatton kept it together down the stretch Sunday by playing bogey-free over the last seven holes for a 2-over 74 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida.
It was his fifth victory worldwide, and first on the PGA Tour, and it came in just his second start since returning from surgery on his right wrist during the offseason.
But the 28-year-old Englishman could only smile when he tapped in a 3-foot par putt on the 18th for a one-shot victory over Marc Leishman, one of the few players who kept moving forward – barely – on another day of blustery, brittle conditions at Bay Hill.
Hatton finished at 4-under 284, one of only four players who beat par for the week, the fewest at Bay Hill since 1980. So severe was the course that Matt Fitzpatrick closed with a 69, the only player to break 70 on the weekend.
Rory McIlroy, one shot behind going into the final round, had a 76 for his highest closing round in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event since a 76 in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. He still tied for fifth, his eighth consecutive finish in the top five worldwide dating to September.
Clarkston native Joel Dahmen also tied for fifth place after a final-round 71, qualifying him for the British Open.
Sungjae Im, trying to become the first player since David Duval in 1997 to win his first two PGA Tour titles in consecutive weeks, closed with a 73 to finish third.
The scoring average Sunday was 75.06, the toughest final round at Bay Hill since 1983. Hatton’s 284 was the highest score to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational since it began in 1979.
PGA Tour Champions
Ernie Els won the Hoag Classic for his first PGA Tour Champions title, birdieing the par-5 15th and 18th holes for a two-stroke victory at Newport Beach Country Club in Newport Beach, California.
Making his third senior start, the 50-year-old Hall of Famer from South Africa closed with a 4-under 67 to finish at 16-under 197. He opened with a 66 and shot 64 on Saturday.
Els lost a playoff to Miguel Angel Jimenez in his debut in the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, then tied for 34th last week in the Cologuard Classic in Arizona.
Fellow Hall of Famer Fred Couples, trying to win the event from the third time at age 60, finished with a 66 to tie for second with Glen Day and Robert Karlsson.
Couples, also part of the playoff in Hawaii, parred the final six holes, chunking a chip on 18 to squander a good birdie try.
Day birdied Nos. 14-17 to take the lead at 15 under, then bogeyed the 18th for a 64. Karlsson bogeyed the 16th and parred the last two in a 66.
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