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Bryson DeChambeau, Lee Westwood get bit by front nine at THE PLAYERS

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 14: Bryson DeChambeau of the United States and Lee Westwood of England look on from the second tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 14, 2021 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 14: Bryson DeChambeau of the United States and Lee Westwood of England look on from the second tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 14, 2021 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Bryson DeChambeau makes double bogey on No. 4 at THE PLAYERS

    PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Chaos at TPC Sawgrass is not a foreign concept. But no one could have predicted what happened to the final group of Lee Westwood and Bryson DeChambeau on the fourth hole on Sunday.

    Ultimately, Westwood’s even-par 72 would leave him runner-up for the second week in a row while DeChambeau’s 71 meant the FedExCup leader would have to settle for a tie for third at this THE PLAYERS Championship, won by a charging Justin Thomas.

    There were plenty of key moments – but the unraveling could really be traced back to the 382-yard fourth hole. The mere fact Westwood made bogey and DeChambeau made a double bogey was not the problem – it was the way in which they did it and the uplifting effect it had on the other contenders.

    Their efforts on the hole put seeds of doubt in their minds and confirmed they didn’t have their best stuff on Sunday. And while they battled hard all day – and made late pushes back at Thomas after he took control – ultimately they would fall short.

    When they arrived at the tee Westwood, sat 13 under while DeChambeau remained 11 under. No one else had reached 11 under at that stage.

    DeChambeau pulled out his hybrid and gave it a lash. The ball barely seemed to get airborne – resembling something a double-digit handicapper might be used to – and dribbled over the forward tee boxes before finding its way into water just 143 yards ahead.

    As he looked on in shock, Westwood took his turn on the tee. The Englishman’s ball had plenty of air – but it was slicing hard to the right and also ended up in the water. Errant shots are one thing – but both of these shots were way off their usual efforts.

    “I was trying to hit more of a low bullet and just kind of caught the heel, a little high on the thing. It wasn't really a top, it was more like a thin ball that just had no spin on it and just knuckled,” DeChambeau said.

    “Just one of those things I tried to squeeze and hit it too hard, got on top of it and hit it thin. Caught the grass below it and just never got any height.”

    The eight-time TOUR winner, fresh off his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, wasn’t done with drama yet. After taking a penalty drop DeChambeau tried to muscle his 4-iron to the hole. Instead, the ball shot hard right and ended up amongst the trees.

    “My 4-iron cracked. I looked at the bottom of the thing. I couldn't use it all day,” DeChambeau said. “It sounded really weird and just came off horrifically… and there's a line in the bottom of the club.”

    A fourth shot stayed in the pine needles before he got up and down for double. Westwood would make a 7-footer for bogey. When the scores hit the boards around the course audible gasps were heard from fans and the rest of the challengers immediately knew the game was on.

    Westwood remained the leader as he made the turn, but Thomas was just beginning to heat up. As the American opened the back nine birdie-eagle-birdie Westwood could only manage pars and he went from two in front to two behind in quick time.

    But just as Westwood’s hopes appeared to have melted away Thomas missed a short par-putt on the 14th green and veteran produced an incredible 200-yard bunker shot on the same hole to set up an all-world birdie to tie the lead.

    The famous finish remained with Thomas getting the better of it with a birdie on 16 and a clutch par putt on the island 17th. Westwood failed to birdie the par-5 16th and missed a clutch par putt of his own on 17.

    “The week has been great. I didn't play my best golf today by any stretch of the imagination, but I battled it out. I was proud of myself for that,” Westwood said. “People question whether I can hole putts under pressure, and I rolled in a lot of must-make putts all day, really, whether it be for par or the great birdie on 14.

    “I felt like I put maximum effort in today. I didn't really have the strike. I didn't really have much direction. I was on the edge all the time, it felt like. I wasn't as good as I played the first three days, but you have days like that, where you just have to grind it out. It's a battle sometimes. That's championship golf. If you don't like it, you're in the wrong job.”

    Westwood, who turns 48 next month, has moved from 153rd to 22nd in the FedExCup over the last two weeks and refused to look at the loss as a negative. Instead he was looking forward to a scouting trip at Augusta National with his son on Monday before returning to Florida to play The Honda Classic.

    As for DeChambeau – he made the turn three off the lead and was four back of Thomas after he failed to birdie the par-5 11th. Birdies at 12 and 13 reignited his hopes before a 14th hole bogey made his job much tougher.

    He refused to give up and executed beautifully on 16 to make a brilliant eagle but with the prospect of needing to birdie the last two holes to have a chance his tee shot on the 17th agonizingly stayed up on the ridge and he was unable to convert.

    “I fought really hard. It just seemed like something wasn't going my way today for some reason. Just I could feel it. It was weird,” he said. “(But) I can play on golf courses that don't really suit me. That's a big lesson. I'd also say, no matter what happens, no matter if I top a shot…, I'm still never out of it for the most part. I know my game is good enough in most facets to get it back and compete with the best of them.”

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