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DeChambeau Denies Westwood Glory in Bay Hill Thriller

By: | Mon 08 Mar 2021 | Comments


Lee Westwood failed in his bid to become the oldest foreign winner on the PGA Tour for more than 40 years but he did so in the most glorious fashion as he succumbed to the incredible power hitting of Bryson DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. 

DeChambeau was one of only a handful of players to break par in the final round, his 71 giving him a 72-hole total of 277, 11 under par, and a one-shot victory over 47-year-old Westwood. No matter what the American threw at him - and that was plenty - Westwood simply refused to go away. And the result was in doubt until DeChambeau holed his final putt.

The US Open champion later revealed that he had received a text message from Tiger Woods in which the 15-time major winner told him to keep fighting. He began the day with a dropped shot after nearly hitting his opening drive out of bounds but then played the next 17 holes without dropping a shot. It was impressive stuff. And he held his nerve to drain a five-foot putt on the 18th to secure an emotional victory before being presented with the traditional red cardigan that was the trademark of the late, great Arnold Palmer.

"I think this 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," DeChambeau said.

Woods, of course, is recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in a car crash a couple of weeks ago.

DeChambeau's 71 matched the low score of the final round in which no one broke 70 on Sunday at Bay Hill for the first time since 1980.

Westwood was routinely outdriven by 50 yards but he focused on the job in hand throughout, even when they came to the par-five sixth and DeChambeau launched a monster that travelled 377 yards. On that occasion, Westwood was more than 100 yards behind his playing partner. However, both men birdied the hole.

Westwood fell out of a share of the lead with a three-putt bogey from 40 feet on the 14th. But he will really rue the 16th hole. DeChambeau had to scramble to make his par and Westwood missed a short birdie putt after a wonderful approach. Had he holed it, he would have drawn level again.

"You can't want for more than that. I thought we had a really good battle," Westwood said. "It was never really more than one shot all day, and there were tough conditions out there. It was a day for playing sensible and hanging on."

As impressive as DeChambeau can be with the driver, it was his putter that really made the difference, Westwood struggled to hole anything of length but the American holed a 40-foot birdie putt at the fourth that saw him take a share of the lead and, crucially, made a 50-footer for par on the 11th to remain one ahead.

"Knowing what I know now, that putt at the 11th was obviously the shot of the day for me," he said.

Westwood tied him with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-5 12th, only to give it back with a three-putt on the 14th. The tournament turned on the par-5 16th, where it was Westwood who had the advantage.

DeChambeau's drive finished against the lip of a bunker and he had to lay up short of the water. Westwood had 158 yards and hit a poor wedge that came up short of the green. He chipped the ball to six feet but failed to make it.

DeChambeau took a one-shot lead to the 18th and split he fairway. Westwood's tee shot found a divot, and he did well to get it on the green and two-putt from 65 feet. DeChambeau's birdie putt slid by some 5 feet and he shook his arms in celebration when the par putt dropped.

Westwood closed with a 73 on a day when the field average was 75.49 - the highest for a final round since 1980.

Corey Conners stayed in the mix until the end. The Canadian holed a 15-foot eagle putt on the 16th to get within one shot, only to find a bunker on the par-three 17th and miss a short par putt. With a bogey on the final hole, he shot 74 to finish alone in third.

Jordan Spieth briefly tied for the lead with a birdie on the sixth but that was his final birdie of the day. He dropped shots at three of his final four holes for a 75, which saw him finish the week in a tie for fourth with Andrew Putnam and Ricky Werenski. It was Spieth’s third top-five finish in four tournaments, and it is surely now only a matter of time before he wins again.

DeChambeau now tops the FedExCup standings after what is his eighth PGA Tour victory, and becomes the first player this season with multiple victories, to go along with his U.S. Open title in September. 

Rory McIlroy, who started four shots out of the lead, was never in the mix. He came undone on the par-5 sixth, where he hit two tee shots into the water on his way to a 76.


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