AVONDALE, LOUISIANA – APRIL 28: (L-R) Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrate the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana on April 28, 2024 in Avondale, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Scheffler, Horschel, Bhatia and McIlroy/Lowry deliver memorable moments

By Helen Ross

He’s the third different player to enter the Masters Tournament ranked No. 1 in the FedExCup as well as in the world – and the only one to have gone on to win the season’s first major.  Even more impressive, Scottie Scheffler has now done it not once, but twice. Scheffler, who also won the 2022 Masters, pulled away on a sun-kissed Sunday, shooting 68 to beat Ludvig Aberg by four strokes.

Tiger Woods came close in his two attempts as the dual No. 1, finishing second in 2008 and tying for fourth in 2013. Dustin Johnson, though, never made it to the first tee after taking a tumble down the stairs in his rental and having to withdraw.

Scheffler’s name continues to be linked with Woods in several other ways. They are the only two to have won THE PLAYERS Championship and Masters in the same year (Woods did it in 2001) and along with Jack Nicklaus, the only ones to have won those events multiple times. Scheffler continued this year’s solid putting on Augusta National’s vexing greens, ranking first in putts per green in regulation and third overall. He had nine one-putt greens in the final round, including four on the inward nine holes, and played the par 5s in 9 under. The Texan also was tied for seventh in greens in regulation and joint 10th in fairways hit.

Scheffler shines once more in Harbour Town

How well is Scottie Scheffler playing right now? He has yet to shoot above par this year and only twice in 39 rounds has he even signed for a round in the 70s. He hasn’t missed a cut this year, and only once has he finished outside the top 10 (and that was a tie for 17th).

The RBC Heritage brought more of the same as Scheffler beat Sahith Theegala by three strokes to win for the fourth time in five starts (and he was second in the other). He’s a cumulative 76 under during that stretch, too. The victory was the 10th of the 27-year-old’s career – all of which have come in a span of 51 events.  Scheffler started a bit slowly – winning the Masters the previous week can do that to a guy – but by the weekend at Harbour Town, he was where everyone expected at the top of the leaderboard. Not even a Monday finish to the Signature Event could slow him down.

The last player to win a major and a PGA TOUR event the following week was Tiger Woods in 2006 (PGA Championship and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational). Scheffler joins another World Golf Hall of Famer, Bernhard Langer, as the only players to go back-to-back at the Masters and RBC Heritage, although Jack Nicklaus has also won the two events in the same year.

Scheffler put together the best Strokes Gained: Approach the Green performance in the ShotLink era, gaining 6.87 shots on the field. Aiding in that quest, he hit 76.39 percent of his greens in regulation, second only to Stewart CInk among RBC Heritage winners.

Horschel captures Corales Puntacana Championship

The 2024 season has been a feast or famine kind of year for Billy Horschel. He’s missed six cuts in 11 starts but also has five top-20 finishes – including his eighth career win at the Corales Puntacana Championship.

Horschel saved his best for last that week, firing a bogey-free 63 to make up a three-stroke deficit and win by two over Wesley Bryan. The comeback was the largest in tournament history. Horschel, who was making his tournament debut, now owns the 72-hole scoring mark of 23 under – eclipsing last year’s champ, Matt Wallace, by four strokes — and a share of the18-hole tournament record after the 63.

For the week, the 37-year-old Horschel was tied for first in putting and solo second in putts per green in regulation. The Floridian was steady off the tee, too, hitting all but seven fairways, missing just one in the final round.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – APRIL 07: Akshay Bhatia of the United States poses with the trophy after winning the Valero Texas Open on the 18th hole of the first playoff during the final round of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio on April 07, 2024 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Brennan Asplen/Getty Images)

Bhatia wins Valero Texas Open

Just over 22 years old, Akshay Bhatia now has two PGA TOUR victories after beating Denny McCarthy on the first hole of sudden death at the Valero Texas Open. The win enabled Bhatia to snag the final spot in the Masters, as well as invites to the final four Signature Events of the season.

Bhatia had huge advantages on the field in Strokes Gained: Total at +21.15 and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green of +18.76. Those totals are among the best ever recorded in the ShotLink era – tied for eighth and  15th, respectively.

Bhatia was particularly precise on the par 4s where he led the field in all four performance categories – birdies (14), strokes under par (10), Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+11.31) and Strokes Gained: Total (+13.27)

Mc-Lowry win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

You had to know it was going to be a special week when Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry got a standing ovation as they left Arnaud’s, one of New Orleans’ most revered restaurants, after having dinner one evening. “He’s getting old, but he can still move the needle a little bit,” Lowry said of his long-time friend and the second-ranked player in the world.

The duo delivered, too, beating Martin Trainer and Chad Ramey on the first hole of sudden death at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The win was the 25th PGA TOUR victory for McIlroy, who was making his debut in the Crescent City, and the third for Lowry.

At one point on Sunday, the Irish duo trailed by five strokes as Trainer and Ramey surged to a 63 that tied the record in the difficult Foursomes format. But four birdies in a five-hole stretch that began at the seventh hole propelled McIlroy and Lowry to the forefront and an 18th hole birdie forced the playoff.

The victory extended McIlory’s streak of seasons with a win to seven. But it may have been even more important to Lowry, who now is eligible for the final three Signature Events of the season.

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