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Scottie Scheffler, with hot putter, demolishes the field to win at Bay Hill

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Scottie Scheffler figured the simple solution to his putting struggles was to quit trying so hard. That's what he did at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and it wasn't a fair fight.

The best in the world from tee to green, Scheffler didn't miss a putt inside 15 feet on the weekend. On a tough Sunday at Bay Hill, he played bogey-free in the final group and closed with a 6-under 66, by two shots the best score of the final round.

The result was a five-shot victory, the largest at Bay Hill since Tiger Woods in 2012.

“It would be borderline unfair if he starts putting really good,” U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark said after finishing second. “I never want to wish ill on anybody, but if starts putting positive each week it's going to be really hard to beat.”

The positive was in reference to the “strokes gained” statistic, regarded as the most accurate measure. Scheffler usually is on the negative side, no tournament more glaring than the Memorial last year. He lost 8.5 shots to the field in putting and missed a playoff by one shot.

“His ball-striking is, honestly, on another level compared to everyone else right now,” Rory McIlroy said. "We knew if he started to hole putts, then this sort of stuff would happen.”

Scheffler was simply unstoppable.

He holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, built a three-shot lead at the turn and then poured it on as a Clark, Shane Lowry and Will Zalatoris were simply trying to survive Bay Hill.

Scheffler hit wedge to 8 feet for birdie on No. 10. He hit another wedge to 6 feet on No. 11. He made key par saves, and then poured in a 35-foot birdie on the 15th, letting out a yell with a light fist pump.

“Part of the problem is just trying too hard,” Scheffler said. "It’s frustrating to not have the best of myself, just because I know that I can putt really well. It’s not like I’ve been a bad putter my whole career. I’ve just gone through a stretch where it’s been tough.

“I think this week I did a really good job of not letting the misses get to me.”

Scheffler finished at 15-under 273 and won $4 million from the $20 million purse of this signature event. It was his seventh career win, all against some of the strongest fields.

And it came a week before Scheffler defends his title at The Players Championship, which had been his last official PGA Tour win.

All that held him back over the last year was the putter. Scheffler switched to a mallet model this week, but far more important was keeping quiet between the ears, thinking more about the stroke than the outcome.

Both were superb.

“I just stayed in my own little space and tried to keep pushing,” Scheffler said.

Scheffler had spoken earlier in the week about learning to quiet the mind. The trick was not to block out the noise — in this case, endless questions about his putting — and focus on something positive. He also made sure not to let putting take away from the fact he was playing golf like no one else from tee-to-green.

“He showed today why he's world No. 1,” said Lowry, who started the day tied for the lead and never had a chance. Lowry finished with three birdies and seven pars over the last 10 holes for a 72 to finish third.

Clark did the best at trying to stay close, and he was two shots behind through eight holes. But it all turned so quickly. Clark drove into the rough and made bogey on the ninth hole and then didn't make another birdie until the par-5 16th.

Clark birdied the 18th for a quite the consolation prize. He earned $2.2 million as the runner-up.

Zalatoris and Russell Henley each had a 72 and tied for fourth. Zalatoris secured a spot in the British Open for having the lowest score among players not already exempt.

Scheffler's lead atop the world ranking got even larger over McIlroy, who had a chance to overtake him with a victory at Bay Hill. McIlroy started the final round four shots behind and promptly shot 41 on the front nine. He shot 76 and tied for 21st.

“This is a super tough golf course and to be 6 under today going out with the lead and just sort of lapping the field is super impressive,” McIlroy said. “But we all knew that he had this in him.”

This should at least stop questions about Scheffler's putting. He led the field in the most vital putting statistic on Sunday and ranked fifth for the week. This came after he indicated earlier in the week how much the constant questions were grating on him.

“If I get asked constantly about putting, sometimes it feels like I’m not playing well. But I’m playing pretty darn good,” he said on Monday while at the TPC Sawgrass.

Bay Hill was the perfect reminder.

“It had been awhile since I won,” Scheffler said. "There had been a lot of chatter about my game and the state of where it was at, and so it was nice to kind of come in here with a good mental attitude and to perform well under pressure.

“And I think today’s round was really special for me going forward.”

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