Win at Arnie’s Place extra special for Bryson DeChambeau
March 07, 2021
By Jeff Babineau, PGATOUR.COM
- March 07, 2021
Bryson DeChambeau pars the last to clinch win at Arnold Palmer
ORLANDO, Fla. – Bay Hill Club and Lodge, relatively docile and friendly for three days, showed its ornery side on Sunday in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Why, some players even said it resembled the difficult setup – high winds, thick rough, rock-hard greens – that a golfer might encounter at a U.S. Open.
Which, lo and behold, played right into the hands of the reigning U.S. Open champion.
Bryson DeChambeau will tell you he did not have his best swing on Sunday, but he had enough of the good stuff and showed ample grit to hold off Englishmen Lee Westwood, 20 years his elder, by a shot. '
DeChambeau, 27, finished at 11 under on the week and moved to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings. He bogeyed his opening hole but never made another. He struck the timely shots when he was asked to, such as splitting the fairway at the par-4 18th with a 303-yard missile while clinging to that slim lead, and converting one last tricky par putt to win.
With darkness settling fast after DeChambeau had run a curling birdie putt almost 6 feet past the hole, he stepped up and won the tournament. He celebrated as if he was a man who’d grabbed onto an electric fence. None of it was easy.
“Even when I don't have all the things I need to feel comfortable with my golf swing and with equipment, all the time, I was still able to perform and execute when the time came,” DeChambeau said. “And that was pretty exciting.”
His 12th consecutive par to close and final-round 71 delivered DeChambeau’s eighth PGA TOUR victory. He was one of only three players (Andrew Putnam and Matt Wallace the others) to shoot 71 on a day when the average score was 75.486. He became the first American to win the API since Matt Every (2014-15) and moved to No. 6 in the World Ranking.
Corey Conners, who was steady all week, finished alone in third after a final-round 74. Tying for fourth place were Putnam, Richy Werenski (73) and Jordan Spieth (75). The finish was Spieth’s third top-5 in his last four starts.
For DeChambeau, winning was great, but winning at Arnold Palmer’s beloved Bay Hill only made things sweeter. On the 18th green for the traditional champion’s ceremony, DeChambeau got emotional talking about Palmer and all he meant to him, and to the game.
“It's beyond my wildest dreams to win Mr. Palmer 's event,” said DeChambeau, who departed for THE PLAYERS Championship sporting both the champion’s red alpaca cardigan sweater (size XL) and the FedExCup points lead. DeChambeau became the TOUR’s first multiple winner of 2021; not since 1994 had the TOUR gone so long (21 weeks) without a player collecting multiple titles.I don't even know what to say to win at Mr. Palmer's event ... It's gonna make me cry.
“I came here as an amateur, he (Palmer) gave me an invitation and I loved this golf course the minute I arrived. I loved the atmosphere and I love the fans,” DeChambeau said. “I loved what Mr. Palmer did with this place and what he's done, and his legacy he's left here.”
Sunday before his round, DeChambeau also received a text from Tiger Woods, who is recovering from a single-car crash.
“Well, it was obviously personal, I would say, for the most part, but pretty much to sum it up ... he texted me this morning out of the blue and I wasn't expecting anything,” DeChambeau said. “When I got that text, I'm like, ‘Wow, that's pretty amazing that he is thinking of me when he's in his tough times that he's going through right now.’ So I just texted him. I said, ‘Keep moving forward, keep going forward. You're going to get through it. You're the hardest working person I've ever met and you'll persevere through this pretty much.’
“One of the things that we talked about was, it's not about how many times you get kicked to the curb, or knocked down. It's about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward. And I think this (champion’s) red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it's a little bit for Tiger as well, knowing what place he's in right now.”
Sam Saunders, Palmer’s golfing grandson, has shared with DeChambeau that his famous grandfather would have enjoyed what DeChambeau is doing, something that DeChambeau was pleased to hear. Picture Palmer giving the Great Bryson Experiment a big thumbs up. Palmer, after all, not only won tournaments (62 on the PGA TOUR), but did so in a bold go-for-broke fashion.
DeChambeau, having worked hard to add some 40 pounds and gain considerable speed and strength in his swing, is pushing the boundaries of golf. Though he hit less than driver on many holes at Bay Hill, he still led the field in driving distance (321.3 yards). And the high anticipation and buzz he created on the sixth tee both weekend days shows that DeChambeau grasps that he is more than a golfer. He is an entertainer.
“He can overpower a golf course. So it's fun to watch, I think,” said Westwood, who pushed DeChambeau to the end, shooting 73. Westwood had his opportunities, but three-putted the par-3 14th hole for bogey and failed to birdie the par-5 16th despite having a wedge in his hands for his second shot into the par 5.
“I thought we had a good battle. I don't think anybody was going to shoot 68 or 67,” Westwood said. “It was a day for playing sensible and hanging on and grinding out the pars.”
DeChambeau thrilled the weekend gallery once again by taking an aggressive line over the lake at the double-bender par-5 sixth – even Westwood would raise his arms triumphantly as DeChambeau’s 377-yard drive found land – leaving only 88 yards to a back-left hole location. Westwood, who had the misfortune of hitting second off that tee, ripped a drive that made him proud, but he had 256 yards left to the green. (Both players made birdies.) Westwood later joked that perhaps DeChambeau will take an even more aggressive line on the par-5 hole next year, and go “straight at the green, not chicken out.”
Bryson DeChambeau’s 377-yard tee shot leads to birdie at Arnold Palmer
But in earnest, the veteran Englishman came away impressed with DeChambeau’s overall game. It is DeChambeau’s driving prowess and sheer strength that garner great attention, but he hardly is one-dimensional. He was making a mess of the par-4 11th hole when he stepped up to a 49-footer for par. In his mind, he wanted to make sure to at least secure a 5, and drop only a single shot. But he also told himself, “Give it a chance.” He holed the putt. Par.
“It was massive,” DeChambeau said. “I mean, knowing what I know now, it obviously was the shot of the day for me. ... I’m glad I don’t have to hit that putt again.”
DeChambeau has a special keepsake at home in Dallas. It’s a letter that Palmer sent to him shortly before Palmer died in September 2016, congratulating DeChambeau on winning the DAP Championship, a Korn Ferry Tour event. He keeps it close to the trophy, and wherever he is, it always stays close to his heart.
Play boldly, Palmer always would say. DeChambeau, newly minted champion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, keeps that close to his heart, too.