Orlando – Bryson DeChambeau gathered the crowds with his long drives and used his putter to seal a one-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational near Orlando on Sunday.
DeChambeau made a 5-foot par putt on No. 18 to win it, finishing at 11-under-par 277 in front of a limited crowd at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, just in front of Lee Westwood, while Corey Conners finished alone in third place at 8 under.
DeChambeau’s 1-under 71 in the final round matched the low round of the day with Andrew Putnam and Matt Wallace. They were the only three in the field to break par during a sunny but windy final round.
The victory was DeChambeau’s first since a dominating run to the U.S. Open title in September and was inspired by a text from Tiger Woods before the final round began.
“I got a text from Tiger this morning and he had obviously done really well here and was very instrumental in Mr. Palmer’s life as Mr. Palmer was to Tiger,” DeChambeau said, referencing the eight Arnold Palmer Invitational titles won by Woods, who was involved in a serious car crash on Feb. 23. “We just talked about keep fighting no matter what happens and play boldly like Mr. Palmer said.”
While low scores were hard to come by, the conditions did allow DeChambeau to take a gamble with his tee shot at No. 6 for the second consecutive day. Instead of following the fairway along a lake on the par-5 hole, DeChambeau took a short cut over the water with a breeze mostly in his favor.
His 376-yard drive found a bunker 88 yards from the pin, changing the dynamics of what is regularly a 565-yard hole. His second shot missed the green, but he scrambled for a birdie to reach 11 under and found himself alone in the lead when Westwood bogeyed the seventh hole.
Westwood tied DeChambeau again at 11 under with a birdie at No. 12, but fell out of the top spot with a three-putt bogey at No. 14.
DeChambeau made a 37-foot putt for a birdie at No. 4, a 49-foot putt for par at No. 11 and a knee-knocking 4-foot par putt at No. 17 with the pressure on after he blasted his birdie putt past the hole.
On the par-4 18th, DeChambeau hit his drive to the center of the fairway, hit his approach shot to the center of the green and again putted past the hole. He then drained another pressure-packed putt, this one from 5 feet to earn the victory.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams (to win) Mr. Palmer’s event,” DeChambeau said. “I came here as an amateur, he gave me an invitation and I loved this golf course the minute I arrived and I love the atmosphere and I love the fans. I loved what Mr. Palmer did with this place and what he’s done and his legacy he’s left here. It’s quite amazing.”
The 47-year-old Westwood was unable to gain any momentum, shooting a 1-over 73 on Sunday after taking a one-shot lead through three rounds. Conners shot a 2-over 74 in the final round.
“I thought we had a really good battle,” Westwood said about playing the final round with DeChambeau. “It was never really more than (a one shot difference) all day and there were tough conditions out there and it wasn’t going to be a day where … anybody was going to shoot 68 or 67. It was a day for playing sensible and hanging on and grinding out the pars.”
Putnam, Jordan Spieth and Richy Werenski finished in a tie for fourth place at six under. Spieth shot a 3-over 75 on Sunday after starting the day two shots off the lead.
The breezy conditions proved difficult for a few contenders. Rory McIlroy shot a 4-over 76 and finished in a tie for 10th place.
Keegan Bradley, whose 64 in the third round was the low round of the tournament, shot 6-over 78 on Sunday and also finished tied for 10th with McIlroy and six others, including Max Homa, who won the Genesis Invitational last month.
In the end, though, the final round turned into a match play competition between the 27-year-old DeChambeau and the veteran Westwood.
“It was a lot of fun and I was definitely playing a little bold,” DeChambeau said when asked about his tee shot at No. 6. “But my hat’s off to Lee. He battled all day out there and it was an amazing battle. I loved every minute of it. I know we’ll be doing it for years to come.”
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