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Sam Torrance: Scottie Scheffler has thrown down gauntlet at his favourite time of season

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MARCH 10:  Scottie Scheffler smiles next to the tournament trophy following his five stroke victory in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 10, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: Scottie Scheffler smiles next to the tournament trophy following his five stroke victory in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 10, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Scottie Scheffler has certainly thrown down the gauntlet as Major season approaches with an impressive five-shot win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the weekend.

Although he didn’t lift the trophy and don the famous red cardigan until Sunday, world No1 Scheffler effectively won it on Saturday. That is when he one-putted his last seven greens, solving the putting problems that have been plaguing him.

From thereon he was magnificent, shooting a bogey-free 66 to win at Bay Hill for the second time in three years – and this time by five shots, the biggest winning margin at the Arnold Palmer Invitational since Tiger Woods in 2012.

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People talk about biorhythms, the idea that certain players thrive at different times of the year. Well, this definitely seems to be Scheffler’s favourite period; his seven PGA Tour titles, including the Masters, have all come in either February, March or April.

This week he will defend the Players Championship, while he will be going for his second Green Jacket at Augusta in a month’s time. To his rivals, his current form will look ominous. For the rest of us, it’s great to see Scheffler remind us just how good he is.

The 27-year-old is not even in the prime of his career yet, so he should keep getting better. Great players improve each year because golf is a learning process. He already knows how to win, and that’s a huge strength.

When I played the Open alongside Tom Watson at Royal Birkdale, I asked him how he stayed motivated after winning all that he did. He said that at a very young age he had learned how to win, and that kept him going. Scheffler has too, and was a delight to watch on Sunday.

In contrast, Rory McIlroy looked frustrated as he finished outside the top 20 for a fourth tournament in a row. Having won in Dubai early this year, he has not managed to take that form with him to the PGA Tour.

Scheffler has made a habit of winning in spring time
Scheffler has made a habit of winning in spring time

World No2 McIlroy’s driving was not at its best, and that is usually the strongest part of his game. But the greats can turn things around at any time, so I don’t have any concerns about Rory.

Ryder Cup teammate Shane Lowry looked good again, despite fading on Sunday. The Irishman, who led for much of the week, finished third to build on his top-four place last time out.

Lowry now looks back to the form that brought him the Open. He has a beautiful, relaxed golf game with a silky swing. When it is right it is very right, and even when it isn’t it’s not that bad.

Manassero’s massive comeback

Over on the DP World Tour there was an even more spectacular comeback story involving Matteo Manassero, who claimed a fabulous win in South Africa.

Manassero burst onto the golf scene like a hurricane when just 16 and had racked up four wins on the European Tour by the age of 20, but he went off the boil – virtually off the planet, in fact.

Now 30, he is back – via the Alps Tour and Challenge Tour – and has his first top-tier title for more than a decade.

They say your second win is the hardest, but when you have been at the top and fallen as far as he did it is really difficult to scale those heights again.

It’s amazing what this will do for Manassero’s confidence, and there could still be plenty more to come from the Italian.

I’m really excited for the Players Championship this week. It’s one of my favourite tournaments, having watched just about every one of them and played a few as well, and has one of the most exciting finishes in golf.

Sam Torrance OBE is a former Ryder Cup-winning captain and one of Europe’s most successful golfers. Follow him @torrancesam